Andy Ross 2017-10-23
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Stop Brexit

Helioseismology data


2017 October 23

How to Stop Brexit

AR (pending Amazon review)

Yes, we can, says Nick Clegg in his readable and persuasive little book. He recalls the reasons and motives behind the Leave victory in the 2016 Brexit referendum and marshals the case for reversing the decision before it is too late. For my part, I find the case cogent and convincing.

Essentially, Brexit is far more complicated and damaging than voters ever imagined when they made their decision last year. Misled by a shameless and mendacious propaganda campaign, many simply did what came naturally and voted out of a vague sense of national pride. Most of them had no clue about the economic and political complications that make Brexit, in any rational assessment, one of the worst policy decisions ever made in the British Isles.

Nick Clegg was punished already in 2015 for his unfortunate coalition with the Conservatives in government. As a consistent and prominent supporter of EU membership from the start, he found himself on the losing side in the 2016 battle for British votes. Admirably, he has stuck to his guns and refused to drink the Kool-Aid that is currently poisoning the Conservative government led by Theresa May.

As a former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Clegg is so mortified by the electoral demise of his former party that he now advises his readers to vote Labour, in the vague and poorly founded hope that a government led by Jeremy Corbyn might find a way to reverse Brexit. Such a government would be far more likely to keep Britain in the single market and the customs union, which is a minimum condition for national prosperity in the foreseeable future, but it would probably also do great damage on other fronts, so this looks like bad advice.

The practical advice Clegg urges toward the end of his tract is sound. British voters who are unhappy at the prospect of Brexit should join a political party, attend political meetings, badger their MP, make their views known, and add their weight to a mass movement to demonstrate that the 2016 referendum decision is no longer valid. Democracy was never intended to mean one citizen, one vote, one time.

How to Stop Brexit .. by Nick Clegg

2017 October 22

Solar Physics Puzzle

New Scientist

The Sun seems to contain less metal than expected. Its mass is about 2 billion Yg, most of it H and He, with about 2% of heavier elements (such as C, N, O, Fe, all of which astronomers call metals). But about 10 out of the 40 million Yg of metals our models predict seem to be missing.

We study the Sun using light and sound. Spectroscopists pass solar photons through prisms, diffracting it into barcodes for the different elements. Helioseismologists look at sound vibrations on the solar surface.

Perhaps the metals are not behaving as expected. Opacity is a measure of how much energy can pass through a given material. Heavier elements are more opaque than H and He. For the helioseismology results to hold up, the opacity of the metals in the Sun needs to be higher.

Atom have a nucleus surrounded by electrons that orbit at precisely defined energy levels. In the high temperatures and pressures of the solar core, the energy levels shift and expand, increasing opacity. We need to observe atoms interacting with light under high temperatures and pressures.

A team used the Sandia National Labs Z machine to zap a small iron disk with a flash of energy intense enough to resemble the solar interior, with temperatures and pressures high enough to really excite the Fe atoms. The experiments show the hot metal has a higher opacity than expected.

We can get a deeper view of the Sun by observing the neutrinos created in its interior. Some 1% of them are born in core fusion processes involving atoms of C, N, and O. Observing CNO neutrinos would help us understand the Sun.

AI Go Supremacy


A mere 19 months after AlphaGo dethroned the world's top human Go player, AlphaGo Zero taught itself to beat AlphaGo. By freeing AI from human knowledge, the breakthrough removes a primary limit on how smart machines can become.

AlphaGo was taught to play the game using first supervised learning, where it was fed 100,000 top amateur Go games and taught to imitate them, and then reinforcement learning, where it played itself and learned to play more consistently.

AlphaGo Zero began knowing only the rules of Go and played games against itself. At first it played randomly but soon it improved. After 3 days and 4.9 million training games, AlphaGo Zero played AlphaGo and won 100 games to 0.

5 presidents

Photograph: Richard Carson/Reuters
Jimmy Carter, George HW Bush, George W Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton
Deep From The Heart: The One America Appeal, Texas A&M University
Fundraiser for those affected by recent hurricanes

Theresa May
Geert Vanden Wijngaert
Theresa May
Brussels, October 20

"Ich glaube, dass in der Sache
klar ist, was jetzt noch
zu geschehen hat
Angela Merkel

AA gun, 1942
Imperial War Museums
British 3.7" AA gun and ATS
spotter, England, 1942

AR Too many Brexiteers
see such images and say:
"Ah, the good old days!"

"Xi Jinping sits on top
of the Communist Party,
the Communist Party sits
on top of China, and
China sits on top
of the world."
Elizabeth Economy

Somewhere in Hydra

NASA animation

Simulated gravitational
waves from collision

Deep Space Gateway

Last Brexit To Paradise

Theresa May and her cabinet
are contingency planning for
no deal with Brussels before the
UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
No deal would also mean no
transition period. Hard Brexit
fans cheer the prospect as
the only way to break free.

AR Free of life as we know it
— free of this mortal coil.


A survey found that
42% of respondents think
it is right to leave the EU,
compared with 47% who think
it is wrong. This is the biggest
gap in favour of remaining
in the EU since the

Sir Robert
Sir Robert Syms
MP for Poole


2017 October 21


Marilynne Robinson

Alexis de Tocqueville was a humanist. The brilliance of people as they are liberated by new ideas makes his case for democracy. Their gifts are highly individual.

This awakening of minds and spirits is a sunlight that falls across the whole landscape of civilization. Tocqueville stood at a place in the evolution of culture where there was both a continuous expansion of literacy and learning and a vast population they had not yet touched.

Impatience with the energy and originality of the mind is inimical to poetry, eloquence, wit, imagination, and depth of thought. The impulse is historically expressed as social engineering. Armies of ideal workers will compete successfully against whomever for whatever into an endless future, at profound cost to themselves.

The humanities do not prepare ideal helots. But they are ideal for preparing imaginative and innovative contributors to a full and generous national life. Politicians who attack public higher education as too expensive have made it so for electoral or ideological reasons.

2017 October 20


Brad East

David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox theologian and philosopher. He says God is being, goodness and truth, and to be is to depend on God. Hart says this view is that of just about every significant theistic philosopher in human history.

Hart sees the progressive secularization of Western culture as a long march toward nihilism. Secularism, capitalism and individualism, consumerism and voluntarism, scientism and materialism all effect the triumph of the will in human affairs.

Hart has no problem with science, with quantum mechanics and evolution and ecological degradation and the value of nonhuman animals. His problem is with the transformation of scientific inquiry into a metaphysics that denies meaning to any further questions. He calls scientism a barbarous fundamentalism regarding knowledge or inquiry.

Hart remains a distinguished public theologian in a country that no longer recognizes them. We are living in the twilight of an ancient civilization. Christendom is gone, and the Christian culture of the West seems destined for slow dissolution.

2017 October 19

America v China

Rex Tillerson

China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international rules-based order.

China's provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge international law and norms. We will not shrink when China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the United States and our friends.

China's model of economic development in smaller countries saddles those nations with enormous levels of debt. The United States will collaborate with India to create a region of peace, stability, and growing prosperity.

America will pursue a free and open policy across the Indo-Pacific map. India, an important democracy, pins the western side of that map. Japan, another important and strong democracy with whom we have strong security relationships, pins the eastern side. Australia covers the South Pacific, and America defines the region at its eastern edge.

America will never have the same relationship with non-democratic China that we can have with a major democracy.

Brexit — Expect No Deal

The Guardian

In a letter organized by the Leave Means Leave campaign, former UK cabinet ministers Owen Paterson, Lord Lawson, John Redwood, and Peter Lilley call on Theresa May to walk away from Brexit talks with no deal if the EU refuses to discuss trade.

German parliament CDU/CSU group vice chair Michael Fuchs confirmed that money was the major sticking point in the negotiations: "A figure of .. between €100 billion and maybe €60 billion should be the right point .. €20 billion is definitely not enough."

UK immigration minister Brandon Lewis: "We do value and we want EU citizens to stay .. EU citizens have the right to continue to stay in the United Kingdom .. British citizens have that reciprocal right when they are living abroad in Europe as well."

The Trump Doctrine

Thomas L. Friedman

The Trump Doctrine is very simple: "Obama built it. I broke it. You fix it."

Trump wants to do too much at once without any real preparation or planning. He makes big decisions without consulting experts and without connecting the dots.

Pulls out of the nuclear deal with Iran but needs a nuclear deal with North Korea
Needs to stabilize Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan but gives up on help from Iran
Wants to end the trade imbalance with China but tears up the TPP trade deal
Pulls out of the Paris climate accord and loses out on the green energy market
Restricts funding for birth control yet seeks to reduce the influx of immigrants

None of these dots connect. Trump has not thought this through.

AR How long must we suffer the Trump—Brexit fallout from ignorant, stubborn voters in the US-UK world?

2017 October 18

Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era

Xi Jinping

China will see the basic realization of socialist modernization by 2035 after 15 years of hard work.

1 From 2020 to 2035, the CPC will build on the foundation created by the moderately prosperous society with a further 15 years of hard work to see that socialist modernization is basically realized.

2 From 2035 to 2050, the CPC will, building on having basically achieved modernization, work hard for a further 15 years and develop China into a great modern socialist country.

By mid-century, the following goals will have been met:
— New heights reached in every dimension of material, political, cultural and ethical, social, and ecological advancement
— Modernization of China's system and capacity for governance
— China a global leader in terms of overall national strength and international influence
— Common prosperity for everyone
— Chinese people happier, safer, and healthier

The Chinese nation will become a proud and active member of the community of nations.

Brexit — Saboteurs

Gideon Rachman

As the bleakness of the Brexit dilemma becomes more apparent, the search for scapegoats begins. Brexiteers target the EU but they are now also rounding on the enemy within: the British people and institutions they accuse of undermining Brexit.

The search for saboteurs gives off a whiff of desperation and defeat. Framing the issue as the people versus the elite backfires — many prominent Leavers are members of the British elite. Roughly half the country still thinks Brexit is a mistake.

Brexit — Hypocrisy

Ragnar Weilandt

For decades, politicians and commentators in Britain ignored, misrepresented, or sneered at the European project. Now the UK is on its way out, people are suddenly waving EU flags.

Many of those now fighting for continued membership of the single market and customs union seem unable to shed a fundamentally Eurosceptic perspective.

British politicians and media have misrepresented and mocked Europe for decades. Few remainers ever made an unconditionally positive case for the EU in public. Hardly anyone seriously challenged the myths and misconceptions that dominate the British debate.

Maybe the EU is flawed, imperfect, in need of reform. The UK is imperfect too.

Brexit — Verdict

The Guardian

The OECD verdict:
— The UK growth rate will fall to 1% next year
— A disorderly exit from the EU in 2019 would hurt trade and reduce growth
— A reversal of the Brexit decision would have a significant positive impact on UK growth
— Low productivity and poor export performance leave the UK too weak to prosper outside the EU.

2017 October 17

Two Neutron Stars Collide

The New York Times

"It's the greatest fireworks show in the universe."
LIGO executive director David Reitze

"I can't think of a similar situation in the field of science in my lifetime, where a single event provides so many staggering insights about our universe."
LIGO Scientific Collaboration member Daniel Holz

"Joy for all."
LIGO Scientific Collaboration spokesman David Shoemaker

Astronomers have seen and heard a pair of neutron stars collide, giving them their first view of how the gold and other heavy metals in the universe were created. Such collisions spew out gamma rays, X‑rays, and radio waves in what astrophysicist Brian David Metzger in 2010 called a kilonova.

On August 17, a LIGO detector recorded a signal and sent out an alert. Transformed into sound, the signal was a 100 s chirp ending in a sudden whoop to 1 kHz. Meanwhile, the Fermi Space Telescope recorded a brief burst of gamma rays 2 s after the LIGO chirp and sent out its own alert. The GRB lasted about 2 s. The signals told a tale of a pair of neutron stars spiraling around each other.

The kilonova fireball showed up as a new bluish pinprick of light in the outer regions of NGC 4993, a galaxy about 130 million light years away. The merging neutron stars were probably relics of massive stars that had died in supernova explosions some 11 billion years ago. These neutron stars were about 1.1 and 1.6 times as massive as the sun.

As they approached each other, orbiting a thousand times a second, tidal forces bulged their surfaces outward. Their guts were ejected and formed a fat doughnut around them.

At the moment they touched, a shock wave squeezed more stuff out of their polar regions, but the doughnut and extreme magnetic fields confined the material into a pair of fast jets emitting gamma rays. As the jets slowed down, they became visible in X-rays and then radio waves.

The big splat poured out neutrons into space, where they transmuted surrounding atoms into heavy elements. The radioactivity of these elements kept the fireball hot. Over a few days, an amount of gold up to 100 times the mass of the Earth may have been blown into space.

The discovery filled fills the gap in our story of how the elements were cooked up from primordial H and He. Stars and supernovas can cook the elements up to Fe, but heavier elements need a different thermonuclear chemistry.

A blizzard of papers is being published — one in The Physical Review Letters has some 3,500 authors.


New Scientist

LIGO found it first, on 17 August, in the constellation Hydra. Gravitational waves and a burst of gamma radiation came from a collision between two neutron stars.

It marks the first proof that neutron star mergers emit gamma ray bursts, the first sighting of heavy elements being formed, and the first measurement of universal expansion using gravitational waves.

The collision was observed in wavelengths across the EM spectrum from radio to gamma rays. Images from the Hubble Space Telescope show us the resulting cloud of hot plasma and gas.

The gravitational waves produced in this collision also revealed how fast the universe is expanding. The waves confirm previous calculations.

We now know we have been witnessing neutron star mergers for as long as we have observed short gamma ray bursts. LIGO will see many more.

2017 October 16


Mike Pence

We will return American astronauts to the Moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond. The Moon will be a stepping stone, a training ground, a venue to strengthen our commercial and international partnerships as we refocus America's space program toward human space exploration.


Neel V. Patel

NASA already has plans to go to the Moon. The first of a series of manned missions to lunar orbit will launch in 2022. But the cost of maintaining and operating a lunar base would be astronomical.

NASA aims to develop the Deep Space Gateway, a crewed space station deployed between the Earth and the Moon as a staging point for deep space missions. It will be up above the lunar gravity well. The lunar surface is an unnecessary detour if the aim is to go to Mars.

AR All crewed missions divert funding from scientifically more productive robot missions. Human space exploration is best accomplished when the robot support systems are mature. Otherwise the first space tragedy will set back progress for decades.

Bright Propaganda

Nick Cohen

The Brexit right has no plan beyond a desire to turn Britain into a Randian dystopia where regulations vanish and the state withers. It has no policy beyond a nostalgic hope that Britain will sail across the wide blue oceans and conquer new markets as our imperial ancestors conquered them before. This is religion, not politics.

The Bright wingnuts have no allies, only enemies. Many of them have been fighting their opponents in the Tory party for 30 years. The wounds are too deep, the scars are too thick, for them to admit now the other side may have a point.

Beyond the desire to create an isolated state in the Atlantic, where welfare and regulations are slashed and climate change denied, is a more primal impulse. They cannot concede an inch to enemies. Compromise, even a compromise with reality, feels like a betrayal.

But as propagandists the Brexiteers are anything but stupid. They have been the most brilliantly successful manipulators of public opinion in modern British history. Despite the collapse in the pound and living standards, despite the descent of the negotiations into the mire, not one prominent supporter of Brexit has admitted to the smallest doubt.

Battle of Brexit

Simon Head

The outcome of the UK general election in June has changed everything. When Theresa May first said she intended to withdraw the UK from the EU single market and customs union, she also said she wanted to keep strategic sectors of the UK economy inside the single market and customs union. Britain would have its cake and eat it.

May put together her approach without much input from her cabinet or British business. Her fall has blown open the politics of Brexit within her cabinet. The contradictions have been exposed as rival factions fight for supremacy.

The cabinet faction led by Philip Hammond wants to salvage as much as possible of UK trading ties with the EU. Boris Johnson leads the cabinet faction agitating for a hard Brexit. The divisions make it unlikely that the cabinet can reach agreement.

Brexiteers say the outcome of the June 2016 referendum is the will of the people. But public opinion is unstable. If the polling numbers move against Brexit, the political class will surely take note and abandon the whole disastrous project.

A Great American Novel

Boyd Tonkin

The idea that rational men are not in charge of running the universe recurs through the 29 parts of the 880 pages of 4321. Years in the making, Paul Auster's 17th novel appeared just as the author turned 70. It is both a panorama of American life between 1947 and 1971 and a vastly magnified quartet, in which the same smart kid, Archie Ferguson from New Jersey, grows up in four different ways, with four separate destinies.

Grandson of a penniless migrant whose stumbling Yiddish replies at Ellis Island ("Ikh hob fargessen") turn him, by chance, into Ichabod Ferguson, Archie enters the world in March 1947, a month after his creator. After this prologue, the four versions of Ferguson are woven into a Bildungsroman that stretches from infancy to early adulthood.

The parallel Fergusons grow up in the same, shared time. Their paths never stray far from plausibility for a bright Jewish boy in the Newark suburbs. Auster makes them writers in assorted genres, to scatter shards of autobiography among his parallel worlds. Each Ferguson learns that reason governs neither the state nor the heart.

4321 by Paul Auster

2017 October 15


The Sunday Times

Beijing is preparing for the 19th national congress of the Communist Party of China in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square, starting Wednesday.

Xi Jinping, 64, is sure to continue as party general secretary and national president. The congress is a further opportunity for him to consolidate his power.

Last year the party added Core Leader to his other titles. This year the congress may celebrate Xi Jinping Thought — an honour previously reserved for Mao Zedong.

Xi aims to preside over the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. This China dream is hugely popular: 92% of citizens say China is on the right track.

Trump Cuts Health Care

Amy Davidson Sorkin

President Donald Trump staged a signing ceremony for an executive order designed to push people into junk insurance plans. He said he will withhold the subsidies that the government currently pays insurance companies. Both moves recklessly target vulnerable Americans.

Trump said he defunded the subsidies because paying them went against the will of Congress. In effect, Congress had promised the money but now wants the right to withhold it on a regular basis. This is something any congressional majority interested in avoiding chaos in the insurance markets could have fixed.

The false stories congressional Republicans drew of Obamacare fed partisan demands for Trump to savage it. The Republican party made a destructive promise that Trump has been eager to keep. Party leaders were quick with their gratitude.

The Trump administration has rewritten rules to let plans omit birth control. It has cut programs that help people sign up for Obamacare and hidden information about affordable plans. At the signing ceremony, Trump said: "I'm only signing it because it costs nothing."

Going Rogue

David Smith

Donald Trump's decision to go it alone with rapid fire announcements on healthcare and Iran reflects his boiling frustration with the limits of presidential power.

Senator Chris Murphy: "Trump's decision to stop ACA payments is nuclear grade bananas, a temper tantrum that sets the entire health system on fire."

Trump's threat to terminate the Iran deal puts him at odds with secretary of state Rex Tillerson and defense secretary Jim Mattis.

White House chief of staff John Kelly: "The Congress has been frustrating to him .. in his view, the solutions are obvious."

Free Will

Oliver Moody

Replika is a chat bot that gradually moulds its traits and style of speech around each user so as to win trust. It is just one of a host of electronic angels and demons coders are building for us. This technology poses new risks for our freedom and dignity.

We need to decide what is acceptable, before it is decided for us. Imagine yourself as a cloud of data moving through the world. Every time you do anything, you shed more data that can be sucked up and used to understand what makes you tick.

These tools will undermine what it means to be an individual. Corporations will use their new powers to manipulate our psychology for their own gain. In a world where machines can predict and sculpt our deepest desires, free will is under threat.

Cambridge Analytica used AI to help elect Donald Trump. Members of the Quantified Self movement log every aspect of their lives with fitness trackers, smartphone sensors, and other widgets. Replika will wake up on millions of devices next week.

2017 October 14


Donald Trump

The Iranian dictatorship .. remains the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism .. It develops, deploys, and proliferates missiles .. It harasses American ships .. It imprisons Americans .. And it launches cyberattacks ..

Realizing the gravity of the situation, the United States and the United Nations Security Council sought, over many years, to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons with a wide array of strong economic sanctions.

But the previous administration lifted these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. ..

Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal. So today .. I am announcing a new strategy ..

1 We will work with our allies to counter the regime's destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region.

2 We will place additional sanctions on the regime to block their financing of terror.

3 We will address the regime's proliferation of missiles and weapons that threaten its neighbors, global trade, and freedom of navigation.

4 We will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.


Federica Mogherini

We cannot afford .. to dismantle a nuclear agreement that is working and delivering .. Iran is implementing all its nuclear-related commitments .. There have been no violations of any of the commitments included in the agreement.

The international community .. has clearly indicated that the deal is and will continue to be in place. The European Union continues to fully support the Iran nuclear deal, and .. is committed to preserve it, to the benefit of all, including the Iranian people.

2017 October 13

Trump Can Nuke Alone

The New York Times

Does President Trump understand, and can he responsibly manage, the most destructive nuclear arsenal on Earth?

He has threatened to totally destroy North Korea. He has reportedly pressed for a massive buildup in the American nuclear arsenal. And soon he will decide for or against the Iran nuclear deal.

Senator Bob Corker trusts Rex Tillerson, Jim Mattis, and John Kelly to help "separate our country from chaos" — a searing indictment from a respected voice on national security issues.

Congress is considering legislation to bar the president from launching a first nuclear strike without a declaration of war by Congress. Today he could unleash a nuclear war within minutes, by his word alone.

How Many Nukes?

Fred Kaplan

When President Trump was shown a graph tracking the dramatic reduction in American and Russian nuclear weapons over recent decades, he pointed to the peak year 1969, when America had 32,000 nuclear weapons, and said he wanted that many nukes now.

Officials explained that the roughly 4,000 weapons in the current US strategic arsenal are better able to carry out their missions than the much larger force half a century ago. As other national security issues were brought up, Pentagon officials were rattled by his lack of understanding on all fronts.

Trump is not interested in learning. His idolatry of military officers is well known, but less noted is his idolatry of big guns for their own sake. He wants military parades as a show of strength. He told his aides he wanted 32,000 nuclear weapons because that was the largest number of nuclear weapons a president ever had.

Forget about the budget or why we need so many nuclear weapons. And forget IQ — America's top diplomat called Trump a fucking moron.

Brexit — Deadlock

John Crace

Michel Barnier: "Here we are again. The same two people." Then he switched to French. He reiterated the three things on which there was no real progress. Citizens rights. Northern Ireland. The financial settlement. He tried to offer a glimmer of hope: "Decisive progress is possible within two months." The last time someone had said "It will be all over by Christmas" was in 1914.

Ein harter Brexit ohne Austrittsabkommen wird immer wahrscheinlicher

AR Soon time to pack my bags.

2017 October 12

Philosophical Investigations

Ian Ground

Ludwig Wittgenstein is seen as the model of a great philosopher. He is obscure and intense, severe and mystical, charismatic and strange, driven and tragic, with his difficulty bound up with his character and his life. Wittgenstein saw philosophy not just as a vocation, but as a way of life.

Born in 1889, Wittgenstein came from a wealthy but dysfunctional Viennese family. He began as an engineer and ended as a fellow in philosophy at Cambridge. He published only one book in his lifetime, the Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus (1921). He left manuscripts and notes later published in various forms. The central work is the posthumous Philosophical Investigations (1953).

In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein asked what must be the case if we are able to have true and false thoughts of the world. His answer was that the world, language, and thought must share a common logical form. But later he came to abandon and replace much of this conception.

In the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein aims to wean us from the idea of intrinsically representational and meaningful psychological states or processes. Because we think language is fundamentally about naming things, we think that psychological concepts must be names of things in an inner space, so language is really private.

Wittgenstein says meaning only gets going in and through the shared practices and interactions of living beings and is only visible in their lives and activity. In the beginning is not the word but the deed. Just as gold does not explain the value of money, thoughts do not explain the meaning of words. We do not mirror reality. We are enmeshed in it.


Das Volk ist derjenige Teil des Staates,
der nicht weiß, was er will.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel


Government by the worst
and most unscrupulous
people among us, or
the most inept kind
of government

"Far from having more for
public services, Brexit Britain
will have to spend tens of
billions it doesn't have on
new quangos — brilliant."
James Chapman

Guide To Presidential Etiquette

If you are the POTUS, you may:

Mock a foreign leader with
a demeaning nickname and
threaten his country with
nuclear annihilation
over Twitter

AfD is the German UKIP,
another tribal atavism:
UKIP brought us the
madness of Brexit;
AfD can do worse

If President Trump refuses to
certify that Iran is complying
with the nuclear deal he will
be making his most feckless
foreign policy decision yet

"Theresa May can restore
some of her credibility by
putting Boris Johnson in
charge of Brexit."
Mary Dejevsky

AR That would add
Damian Green's "gaiety"
to the proceedings!


Not quite for everyone

"Nobody has yet said they
disagree with government
policy. Boris is doing what
Boris has always done, adding
to the gaiety of nations."
Damian Green

Zapad 2017

Shwedagon Pagoda
Shwedagon Pagoda

UK foreign secretary
Boris Johnson recited part of a
colonialist poem in front of local
dignitaries while on an official
visit to Myanmar in January.

In the Shwedagon Pagoda, the
most sacred Buddhist site in
Yangon, he started reciting
The Road to Mandalay
by Rudyard Kipling.

The UK ambassador to Myanmar
stopped BoJo before he got to:

Bloomin' idol made o' mud
Wot they called the
Great Gawd Budd


2017 October 11

A German Prophet

James Angelos

Götz Kubitschek, a tall black-clad figure with a well-trimmed goatee and the upright posture of a military officer, is 47 and lives in a village in eastern Germany. He calls himself a conservative, battling to preserve German identity, which he says is threatened by immigration and the alienating effects of modernity. He has warned of the looming demise of the German Volk and has connections to some of the most radical AfD politicians.

European nationalists promote a kind of New Right rainbow coalition, in which sovereign states steadfastly maintain their ethnic and cultural identities within a larger western ideal. New Right thinkers dream of establishing a common front that would unite opponents of liberalism on both extremes of the political spectrum. They say German self-hatred must be overcome for Germany to be great again.

Kubitschek says that in a time of great peril a leader must act beyond the law. He says the consequences of a revolt are less troubling than the threat of what would happen if the Volk lacked the courage to defend itself from cultural erosion. Recently he published Finis Germania, a book by Rolf Peter Sieferle.

AR Finis Germania — blog 2017 July 12

Brexit — Update

Financial Times

UK prime minister Theresa May, who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, was asked how she would vote in a new referendum: "What I did last time around was I looked at everything and came to a judgment and I'd do exactly the same this time around."

European Council president Donald Tusk: "If it turns out that the talks continue at a slow pace, and that sufficient progress hasn't been reached, then together with our UK friends we will have to think about where we are heading."

UK chancellor Philip Hammond: "The government and the Treasury are prepared. We are planning for every outcome."

AR We can still turn HMS Britannia around and escape the Brexit falls.

2017 October 10

American Kakistocracy

Norm Ornstein

We are experiencing kakistocracy in America. The Constitution prohibits anything of value other than a salary going to a president from the federal government or the states. Trump pushed for more favorable property taxes. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have sought to leverage their White House status for business gain. A string of Trump cabinet members and White House staffers have been caught spending staggering sums of taxpayer dollars to charter jets.

World stability is endangered by the embarrassing triangle involving secretary of state Rex Tillerson, secretary of defense James Mattis, and Trump. Within the last week, Trump undercut Tillerson via tweet, taking diplomatic talks with North Korea off the table while his secretary of state was in China. Then Tillerson reportedly called the president a moron. Mattis then told the Senate that America should continue to certify the Iran nuclear deal, after which the president undercut his credibility by decertifying the deal.

Donald Trump campaigned by promising to run government like a business. Ot the 602 key policy positions in the executive requiring Senate confirmation, only 142 have been filled and 289 have not even had a nominee chosen. The record here is starkly worse than under the previous four presidents.

John Kelly left his position at Homeland Security for the White House in July. The vacancy he left remains. There are still no nominees for undersecretary for national protection, undersecretary for science and technology, or assistant secretaries for policy or immigration. The same pattern holds true for almost every other cabinet department or key agency.

The record of the Trump administration in its first nine months is abysmal. Not one of the big goals set by the president or majority congressional leaders has been achieved. The administration is inept, venal, and reckless.

2017 Nobel Prize in Economics

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Richard H. Thaler has incorporated psychologically realistic assumptions into analyses of economic decision making. He has shown how limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control systematically affect individual decisions as well as market outcomes.

Limited rationality — Thaler developed the theory of mental accounting, explaining how people simplify financial decision making by creating separate accounts in their minds, and showed how aversion to losses can explain the endowment effect.

Social preferences — Thaler showed how consumers may stop firms from raising prices in periods of high demand, but not in times of rising costs, and devised a tool to measure attitudes to fairness in different groups of people around the world.

Lack of self-control — Thaler analyzed self-control problems using a planner-doer model to describe the internal tension between long-term planning and short-term doing, and demonstrated how nudging may help people exercise better self-control.

Thaler has built a bridge between the economic and psychological analyses of individual decision making. Behavioural economics has had a profound impact on many areas of economic research and policy.

Living With God

Peter Brown

Saint Augustine wrote his Confessions in about 397 CE, a few years after he had become a Christian bishop. In the first nine books, Augustine describes his life from his birth to his conversion in Milan and the death of his mother. In books 10 and 11, he includes philosophical thoughts on the nature of memory and time. In the last two books, Augustine plunges into the Hebrew scriptures.

In her new translation, Sarah Ruden renames God as a master. This change brings Augustine to life. In relation to God, Augustine experiences all the ups and downs of a household slave in relation to his master. Augustine changes in his relation to God, over the years, from slave to repentant son to lover. Ruden conveys a living sense of the being before whom we find him transfixed in prayer.

Augustine uses medical terminology in books 6 and 7 to describe the last stages of his conversion. Here the crack of the whip is silent. Nor does truth dawn suddenly for him in the garish manner of conventional conversion narratives. Instead, we enter the gentle light of a Roman sickroom, as God, the supremely tender doctor, tiptoes in to place his hand on Augustine.

Augustine has a gift for miniaturizing sin. Examining his motives for robbing a pear tree, he isolates the possibility that he had acted gratuitously, simply to show that he could do whatever he wished. By the time the bishop approached his sexual temptations, he looks at his sins as if through the diminishing end of a telescope. They are disturbing because they are so small but so tenacious.

2017 October 9


Kyle Griffin

Trump: "Maybe it's the calm before the storm."
Reporter: "What storm Mr President?"
Trump: "You'll find out."


The New York Times

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Republican Senator Bob Corker says President Trump is treating his office like a reality show, with reckless threats toward other countries that could lead to World War III: "He concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation .. the White House has become an adult day care center .. every single day at the White House, it's a situation of trying to contain him."

Corker could play a key role if Trump follows through on his threat to decertify the Iran nuclear deal. On Trump: "I know .. in several instances, he's hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out .. the vast majority of our caucus understands .. the volatility that we're dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road."

Corker, 65, is a former mayor of Chattanooga who became wealthy in construction. He says the commander in chief is not fully aware of the power of his office: "I don't think he appreciates that when the president of the United States speaks and says the things that he does, the impact that it has around the world."


New Scientist

New cochlear implants will let users stream audio directly from their iPhone into their cochlear nerve. Apple and Cochlear have made the connectivity available for any hearing implants that use the Nucleus 7 sound processor. The audio signal is highly compressed, but the technology is likely to be adopted by consumer audio devices. Technology giants are betting heavily on audio interfaces becoming the norm in the future. We will wear transparent ear buds that let us hear the world around us while also working online through our phone.

AR Ooh, lovely!

2017 October 8

A German Patriot

Roger Cohen

Klaus Riedelsdorf is a German patriot. He wants his country back. Islam is an ideology, he says, and an Islamic takeover of Germany is the greatest danger the country has faced since the Cold War.

He cites three fiascos: the euro fiasco, where Germany ended up paying to bail out other countries; the environment fiasco, where Germany renounced nuclear power; and the refugee fiasco, where Angela Merkel has let in a million-strong "army with stones" since 2015.

Riedelsdorf is a member of the AfD party. He is happy with equal rights for gays and women, but he asks whether what homosexuals do with each other really needs to be taught in German schools or whether gender-neutral neologisms really need to be adopted to satisfy feminists.

Riedelsdorf on political correctness: "It makes no sense to force people to think this or that when they don't believe it. They will do the opposite as soon as they can."

On WW2: "My grandfather and three of my father's brothers fought in the war. They did what they were told to do, as any soldier in the world would. They tried to be honorable. The war was a crime, we know that, but soldiers did not commit the crimes. That was the SS. We need a differentiated view of the Third Reich."

AR I can understand and even sympathize with his views — except that patriotism is nationalism and nationalism is a tribal atavism that must be damped if not squashed in the sort of globalized world that I see as our only hope in the longer term.

2017 October 7


Martin Wolf

Jeremy Corbyn: "The next Labour government will transform Britain by genuinely putting power in the hands of the people."

Socialism has come in three main varieties: autocratic, populist, and social democratic. Autocratic socialism was a catastrophe. Populist socialism has never worked economically. Social democracy has been a triumph.

European social democrats understand that any successful program for a party in government must:
— avoid the lure of magical thinking on budget constraints for government
— recognise the crucial role of incentives in shaping human behaviour
— thoroughly internalise the importance of a stable institutional framework
— understand that the private sector plays a leading role in the economy

Populist socialism is undisciplined on public finances, unconcerned about incentives, contemptuous of property rights, hostile to the private sector, and antagonistic to the constraining institutions.

AR People power means putting pleasure now over pain later.

Deep Tory Problems

Philip Collins

Manchester was a theatre of delusion for the Conservative party. Hollowed out intellectually, the party has retreated to the comfort zone of obsession with Europe. The Eurosceptics have released a toxin into their party which is poisoning their politics.

The Tory party has the leader it deserves. The conservatism of Theresa May consists of some strong ideas weakly held and is reluctantly liberal on social issues, prone to protectionism in economics, and patriotic in character.

The Tory party contains dissent. Few Tory leaders were ever ideologues. A party that pursued a policy of imperial protection before switching to the advocacy of free trade without ceasing to be the Conservatives was never defined by either.

Passion on Europe has turned the party into a pressure group. Europe is their only issue and it is shattering them. Some of them regard Boris Johnson as their saviour, forgetting that he and his kind are to blame for their move to the fringe.

AR My published comment under this article drew by far the most recommendations, so far as I can see, among many hundreds of comments: "Brexit is an expression of an unwanted disease. Most British voters who suffered from it didn't even realise its virulence. They thought detesting foreigners — who begin at Calais — was a patriotic eccentricity. In fact that detestation is toxic mind rot."

2017 October 6

Rhodes Scholars

Max Harris

I grew up surrounded by books and Oxford was always on my radar. The Rhodes scholarship financed my graduate work at Oxford from 2012 to 2014. It was really chance that led me to take the All Souls exam and win a fellowship.

The Rhodes Must Fall campaign began in South Africa and came to Oxford in 2015. It has sparked debate about Oxford and its institutions. The scholarship is a kind of brand and scholars are quite sensitive to its reputation.

I knew little about Cecil Rhodes when I won the scholarship. I backed the campaign partly because of its history and partly because I knew some of the black students who had launched the campaign and wanted to help.

The movement aims to decolonialize curricula, to help correct the underrepresentation of black students and academics, and to relocate the statue of Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes House is not happy with its methods and language but I hope things will change.

I see no contradiction between accepting the scholarship and criticizing the man who financed it. On the contrary, I think it my duty to be aware of the crimes and contribute to their reparation. The statue should be put in a museum.

Rhodes Scholarships go back to 1902 and colonial capitalist Cecil Rhodes. They are awarded only to members of certain nations. The Rhodes Trust aims "to identify and develop leaders" and has funded around 8,000 scholars so far.

All Souls College in Oxford was founded in 1438 and contains only fellows. Its entrance exam for Oxford students is billed as the hardest in the world: only 2 per year win a generously funded 7-year fellowship.

AR At Oxford, between my third and fourth degrees, I felt tempted by the All Souls exam — but somehow never sat it.

2017 October 5

Nobel Prizes

Ed Yong

Three men won the Nobel Prize for Physics for their discovery of gravitational waves. But what of the other scientists who contributed to the LIGO project?

Every year, when Nobel Prizes are awarded in physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine, critics note that they are an absurd and anachronistic way of recognizing scientists for their work.

The scientific Nobels have drawn controversy since their inception. Beyond who should have received the prize and who should not, the problem is that the Nobels reward three individuals at most for each of the scientific prizes in any given year. And modern science is a team sport.

The price of reform is low, and the cost of avoiding it is high. The Nobels feed the pernicious myth of the lone genius. They reinforce a reward system in science in which the winner takes all, and the contributions of the many are neglected by disproportionate attention to the contributions of a few.

And in many cases, the prizes are about who has survived. Nobel Prizes cannot be awarded posthumously. Women have won just 12 of the 214 prizes in physiology or medicine, just 4 of the 175 prizes in chemistry, and just 2 of the 204 prizes in physics.

None of this would matter if Nobels were no big deal. But laureates are blessed with eternal fame — a problem when some turn to pseudoscience or worse.

2017 October 4

A Banjaxed Conference

Marina Hyde

By the end of the Conservative party conference, Theresa May had suffered so many painful betrayals and humiliations that she should have ditched her speech. Handed a P45 by a comedian as she coughed it out, she had already spent four days having to suck up all manner of indignities.

The party seemed to have called an election by mistake. This conference was an attempt to contain the fallout, which repeatedly threatened to spill over into open recrimination. Everywhere you went, you could hear party members muttering about wanting big ideas, a big vision.

The average age of Conservative members is around 70. Perhaps there was the odd clue that this sort of reckoning was in the post. The endless giveaways to baby boomers. The pollsters who used to say the only demographic one needed to pay less attention to than young people was dead people. The sense among the constituency associations that the definition of young is under 48.

Neither the Tories nor Labour — both of which proclaim how useless the other lot are — seem aware what their failure to pull comfortably ahead against that kind of adversary says about them. We might hesitate to characterise them as two equally formidable adversaries grappling at the Reichenbach Falls. Two drunks fighting in a puddle feels more like it.

AR The original article is long and witty — I recommend it.

Gravitational Wave Nobelists

New Scientist

Gravitational waves have earned a Nobel prize for Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish, and Kip Thorne, the three leaders of the LIGO/VIRGO collaboration that found the waves in 2015.

Half of the $1.1 million prize goes to Weiss. The remainder is shared between Barish and Thorne. Weiss founds ways back in the 1970s to cancel out sources of background noise that could be mistaken for gravitational waves. Thorne joined forces with Weiss to develop the interferometer. Barish was leader of LIGO and transformed a small research group of 40 into a major international collaboration of 1000 scientists.

Weiss: "We know about black holes and neutron stars, but we hope there are other phenomena we can see because of the gravitational waves they emit."

AR Thorne co-authored with Charles Misner and John Wheeler the bible of general relativity: Gravitation

2017 October 3

Guns In America

Nicholas Kristof

Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns (including suicides, murders and accidents) than the sum total of all the Americans who died in all the wars in American history, back to the American Revolution. Every day, some 92 Americans die from guns, and American kids are 14 times as likely to die from guns as children in other developed countries.

Godfather Of Brexit

Financial Times

A friend says UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson has reinvented himself as the godfather of Brexit.

A cabinet minister: "Boris was in danger of sliding out of view but he is now back in the game. You get some party activists chuntering about his disloyalty to Theresa May, but at the same meetings you get people saying — Good old Boris, I'm glad somebody is saying those things."

BoJo: "It would be foolish to leave the EU only to remain in orbit in a state of lunar capture."

BoJo Brexit Bombast

Janan Ganesh

Boris Johnson is wrong in his impatience for a fast Brexit. He is right to sense that delay suits the Remainers. Once Britain enters a holding pen between in and out, the chances of exit fall.

BoJo has no positive account of exit because there is none to be had. The EU does not hold member states back from external trade or from munificent healthcare spending. BoJo has a political hunch that exit has to happen at pace or not at all.

No prime minister will dare to rescind the referendum. But Britain could ease into a limbo in which two years of transition become more. Transition is the last public service of Theresa May.

2017 October 2

Zapad 2017

The New York Times

The military exercise Zapad 2017 showed progress in the Russian ability to conduct complex, large-scale operations, using drones and other new technology. It far exceeded in scope and scale what Moscow had said it would conduct.

Before the exercise, Russia said the drills would involve fewer than 13,000 troops engaged in a counterterrorism scenario in Belarus, the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, the Baltic Sea region, and around St. Petersburg. Instead, tens of thousands of Russian troops in the Arctic and Far East, the Black Sea, near Ukraine, and in the Abkhazia region of Georgia also joined in.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu: "In effect, these activities together constituted a single strategic exercise, involving the full spectrum of Russian and Belarusian military."

Newtonian Resurrection

A.N. Wilson

Isaac Newton went up to Cambridge in 1661. As a Fellow of Trinity College and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics from 1669 onward, Newton was obliged to subscribe to the 39 articles of the Church of England. Unusually for a fellow at this period, he refused to take holy orders.

In addition to his public work as a mathematician and physicist, Newton secretly studied Christian doctrines. He concluded that the central doctrines of Christianity were monstrous idolatries and perversions of true religion.

Newton believed he was one of the true believers mentioned in the book of the Apocalypse, who would be resurrected to rule over mortals in the Millennium. The Archbishop of Canterbury talked with him and thought he was mad.

2017 October 1


Conservative Party Conference

Theresa May says the cabinet is united and she will be leader for the long term.


Niall Ferguson

The Russian government meddled in the US presidential election. Shortly after the election, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg dismissed as "a pretty crazy idea" the notion that fake news might have won it for Trump. Last week he said he regretted those words.

Russian trolls with bogus identities bought more than 3,000 Facebook ads. The ads could have been seen by tens of millions of people. Russians used Facebook Events to organise phoney political protests in the United States. Twitter was used in a similar way.

It is still too early to conclude that Russian use of social media decided the election. But we probably can conclude that social media decided the election. The only indicators that reliably predicted the election result were Facebook and Twitter. Trump completely dominated Clinton on both.

Facebook has more than 2 billion users around the world. In America, about two-thirds of adults are on Facebook. Nearly half get their news from it. The most powerful media publisher in the history of the world — Citizen Zuck.


Anil Ananthaswamy

Henry Markram aims to understand the workings of our brains. As our brains think, learn and remember, they create elaborate but ephemeral structures in at least seven mathematical dimensions. These transient structures, which appear and disappear like sandcastles on a beach, could help us understand how the brain creates our thoughts and feelings.

The Blue Brain Project was launched in 2005, with the aim of simulating the human brain inside a computer. In late 2015, the team announced it had recreated a cylinder of rat brain 0.5 mm wide and 2 mm long, containing 31,000 neurons of more than 200 different types, with some 8 million connections between them. For Markram, the project director, such simulations let you see how neurons work together at a level of detail inaccessible in a real brain. Making sense of the data involves algebraic topology.

A network of neurons can be depicted as a graph. A clique is a dense type of graph in which every neuron is connected to every other neuron. They correspond to geometrical shapes: 3 neurons in a clique form a 2D triangle, 4 form a 3D tetrahedron, 5 neurons a 4D structure, and so on. Researchers see such cliques in real brains but cannot see the direction of information flow within them. This directionality is clear in a digital brain.

A team looked for directed cliques in the Blue Brain data, in which information enters via one neuron, passes through each of the others and exits via the last. The biologically inspired network had many times more directed cliques than a randomly constructed network would, including cliques with up to 8 neurons in 7D cliques — which may increase as the Blue Brain simulation grows in size.

Neurons that fire together wire together. In the simulated brain, pairs of neurons connected as part of a directed clique are more likely to fire together than other pairs. The bigger the clique a pair of neurons belong to, the more likely they are to fire together. Simple cliques form first, and then quickly grow bigger. The stronger the stimulus and the more synchronized the input received by the neurons, the bigger the cliques. Once the peak is reached, the structures collapse. Typically, the process lasts a few tens of milliseconds.

Markram: "When anything happens, the brain builds the most complex structure that it can. It climbs as high as it possibly can go, and then it collapses. All stimuli evoke the same stereotypical, multidimensional sandcastle building and collapsing."

Markram thinks this topological approach could help crack consciousness.

AR Wonderful — this math fits my picture of consciousness in Mindworlds.

Blade Runner 2049
Allstar/Warner Bros
Blade Runner 2049


Britain has fallen from the top
to the bottom of the league of
G7 leading economies in the
year since the Brexit vote


"De l'audace, encore de l'audace,
toujours de l'audace et la Patrie
sera sauvée!
Georges Danton

Boeing v Bombardier

US Department of Commerce
sides with Boeing in its war
against Canada planemaker Bombardier and slaps 220%
tariffs on sales into the US,
alleging Bombardier sold
airliners below cost into US
thanks to subsidies from
Canada and UK.

AR Bad for US-UK trade
prospects after Brexit.

The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid's Tale
A US fundamentalist theocracy
treats women as property of
the state, forcing them
into sexual servitude
to repopulate a


2017 September 30

BFR Mars Vision

The New York Times

At the IAC in Australia, Elon Musk said he has a workable plan for a new rocket and spaceship. The “BFR” would be 9 m in diameter and able to lift 150 Mg to LEO — more powerful than the Saturn 5 rocket that took Apollo astronauts to the Moon.

For Mars colonists, the BFR would lift a spaceship with 40 cabins for about 100 people per flight. After launch, the booster would return to the launchpad. The spaceship would continue to orbit and refill its tanks with methane and oxygen before pushing on to Mars. With everything reusable, the cost of operation would be low. The system could even fly passengers between any two points on Earth in less than an hour. Musk said BFR could launch in 2022 and go to Mars in 2024.

Lockheed Martin has a Mars mission vision too. It would head to Mars in 2028 with 6 astronauts and the first trip would only circle Mars for a year before returning to Earth. It would use the Orion crew capsule and the NASA Deep Space Gateway.

Musk — Moon — Mars

New Scientist

Elon Musk dreams of an enormous new rocket that he calls the BFR, to lift 150 tons up to LEO. Once up and running, it will launch satellites and ferry cargo and crew to the ISS.

Then it will fly to the Moon: "This will enable the creation of a lunar base. It's 2017 — we should have a lunar base by now. And then of course Mars, becoming a multi-planet species. Beats the hell out of being a single-planet species."

5778 Tishri 9


Jerusalem Post

UN schoolbooks used in Gaza and the West Bank display extreme anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments and no hope for peace in the region, according to a new study.

The textbooks depict Jews as having no rights in the region but only greedy ambitions. The Jewish holy sites are all presented as Muslim holy places threatened by Jews. Israel is not recognized at all.

Schoolbooks dated 2016 say the 6 million Jews living in the country after its supposed liberation will endure expulsion from the land and extermination of their defeated and scattered remnants.

The UN is helping to prepare Palestinian children and youths for a future war with Israel.


Mustafa Akyol

In Kuala Lumpur, I recently gave a talk on apostasy from Islam. I said Muslims must uphold freedom of conscience, in line with the Quranic dictum that there shall be no compulsion in religion.

A group of religion enforcement officers came into the lecture hall, looking serious. I and my hosts decided to cancel my next lecture. I went to the airport to go home but was arrested and locked up. In the morning, I was taken to a Shariah court, interrogated for two hours, and finally let go.

A parenthetical note is frequently inserted into Saudi translations of the Quranic verse: “There shall be no compulsion in religion (in becoming a Muslim).” They agree that no one should be forced to become a Muslim but think Muslims should be compelled to practice Islam in the way they define.

By policing religion, the authorities are enfeebling their societies, raising hypocrites, and causing people to lose their respect for Islam.

2017 September 28


Joan Acocella

Hugh Hefner, the founder and editor-in-chief of Playboy, always said his ideal for the centerfold photo was "the girl next door with her clothes off."

Playboy was launched in 1953. The magazine proposed that wanton sex was good for you. In his first issue, Hefner ran a nude photograph of Marilyn Monroe. It made the issue a hit.

Hefner set out to sell an upscale hedonism. He brought in fiction by well-known authors and featured interviews with Miles Davis, Peter Sellers, Bertrand Russell, Malcolm X, Billy Wilder, Richard Burton, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jimmy Hoffa, Albert Schweitzer, Vladimir Nabokov, Jean Genet, Ingmar Bergman, Dick Gregory, Henry Miller, Cassius Clay, George Wallace, and many more.

The fee for a centerfold shoot today is $25,000. These women hope the centerfold will get them a career in modeling or acting. One wonders whether sex is still the point.

Playboy is still the best-selling men's magazine in the United States.

More Gravitational Waves

New Scientist

On 14 August, the new Virgo detector in Italy and the two US detectors that make up LIGO all observed the ripples in spacetime caused by two black holes merging. This is the fourth gravitational wave detection ever. All four have come from pairs of black holes spiraling toward one another and then colliding.

The black holes that caused this latest burst of gravitational waves were 31 and 25 times the mass of the sun before they merged. They are located about 1.8 billion light years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Eridanus.

LIGO collaboration member Kenneth Strain: "Three detectors is not just a little bit better than two — it gives us radically better information about the location of the source and what's going on with the source. The numbers we can get now are much more precise than before."

LIGO spokesperson David Shomaker: "This is just the beginning of observations with the network enabled by Virgo and LIGO working together. With the next observing run planned for fall 2018 we can expect such detections weekly or even more often."

2017 September 27

Relaunching the European Project

Emmanuel Macron

The Europe we know is too weak, too slow, too inefficient, but Europe alone can give us a capacity for action in the world in the face of major contemporary challenges. The only path that assures our future is the rebuilding of a Europe that is sovereign, united, and democratic.

Security and Defense
— Create an EU intervention force
— Create an EU defense budget and a common doctrine to act
— Create an EU intelligence academy and a public prosecutor for terrorism
— Create an EU asylum office and border police
— Create an EU natural disaster response force

Economy and Trade
— Impose an EU tax on financial transactions and use it to fund development aid
— Impose an EU company tax with rate bands as a condition for structural funds
— Strengthen the EZ with a stronger budget and a minister of finance

Environment and Climate
— Set a carbon tax of at least €25 per ton to penalize pollution
— Impose a carbon tax at EU external borders on imports from polluting industries

Digital and Innovation
— Create an EU innovation agency to finance research in fields such as AI
— Create EU champions in the digital transition
— Tax digital enterprises by taxing the value where it is created
— Regulate major platforms

EU Institutions
— Start a broad debate on Europe to offer ideas before the 2019 EU elections
— Elect half of the European Parliament on transnational lists
— Reduce the European Commission to 15 members.
— Rebuild the European project by and with the people


Mehreen Khan

French president Emmanuel Macron spoke on the future of Europe for 100 minutes at the Sorbonne. It was more than double the projected time and was greeted with rapturous applause.

Macron repeated the French desire for a common EZ budget, focused on renewed Franco-German cooperation, and proposed the creation of a common European intervention force and joint defense doctrine. He did not dwell on the details.

"I have no red lines, I have only horizons. Audacity is the only answer."


Brendan Howlin

We were told that there will be no going back to a hard border in Ireland. But if part of the island is in a different customs union than the remainder, the need for border checks seems inescapable.

Ireland does more than €1 billion a week trade with the UK. Last year alone saw 110 million border crossings. Some 375,000 Irish people now live in the UK. And 277,000 British people now live in the Republic of Ireland. For this volume of trade and travel to be interrupted by border checks is unacceptable.

The peace in Ireland is anchored in EU membership. EU citizenship has allowed a blurring of British versus Irish identity. We cannot allow Brexit to undermine the progress made since 1998.


Jan-Werner Müller

Jason Brennan says most US voters are ignorant about politics. They treat politics like a sport. The completely ignorant are hobbits, those who root for one team and hate the other are hooligans, and a tiny minority of vulcans examine the evidence to form their political judgments.

Brennan proposes restricting the franchise on the grounds of a knowledge test to create an epistocracy. He rejects the pious notion that political participation tends to educate, enlighten, and ennoble. He says more political involvement is likely to turn hobbits into hooligans.

Brennan says modern democracies fail to achieve rational ends. But the democratic process is not really about individual voters making rational or irrational choices. Rather, it allows leaders to gain power on the basis of their claims to represent different ideas, interests, and identities.

The quality of democracy depends on the space between voters and the policy decisions that bind them. Ignorance and misinformation are often spread by political elites to further their interests. Democratic politics can be ugly, but it can throw the bastards out.

Neuromorphic Computing


Intel has developed a self-learning neuromorphic chip that mimics how the brain functions. This extremely energy-efficient chip gets smarter over time and does not need to be trained in the traditional way. It takes a novel approach to computing via asynchronous spiking.

Neuromorphic computing draws inspiration from our current understanding of brain architecture and computations. The brain relays information with pulses or spikes, modulating the synaptic strengths or weight of the interconnections based on timing of these spikes, and storing these changes locally at the interconnections. Intelligent behaviors emerge from the cooperative and competitive interactions between multiple regions within the neural network and its environment.

The Loihi research test chip includes digital circuits that mimic the brain, making machine learning faster and more efficient. Neuromorphic chip models are inspired by how neurons communicate and learn, using spikes and plastic synapses that can be modulated based on timing.

2017 September 26

Germany Turns Right

Klaus Brinkbäumer

Germany is heading for a Jamaica coalition. Germany has never seen such a coalition at the national level. But the coalition has no substantive foundation. It only has a common enemy, the AfD.

That is hardly a promising starting point for good governance. Liberal democracy is insecure. We are seeing in the United Kingdom and in France how tiny cracks can grow with time into big divides. We have seen in the United States, Poland, Hungary, and Turkey how ruthless politics can become and how rapidly freedom can be eroded.

Whether the AfD, with its intolerance and xenophobia and with the return of Nazi notions it represents, will remain a fringe phenomenon or whether it will prosper and gain power will depend on how the new government and the new parliament approach the challenges of the coming years.

Angela Merkel enjoys admiration from abroad. In crises, she seems neutral and ambiguous — she waits to see how things play out. Germany lost control of its borders for around two months in 2015. Merkel will have to find her way to determination and learn to explain the steps she takes if she wants to prevent the populists from growing.

The Bundestag has not been good enough in recent years. There have been few debates deserving of the name and the government has not felt beholden to parliament. Democracy deserves better.

Germany Is Normal

Gideon Rachman

Germany has lost its immunity to angry populism. The Alternative for Germany scored over 13% of the vote, still well below the proportion of voters who elected Trump, delivered Brexit, and opted for extremists in France. But its strong showing dashes the hope that Germany is different.

The AfD has begun to play with the most incendiary material in German history. Alexander Gauland said Germans have a right to be proud of their soldiers in both world wars. Alice Weidel called the German government the puppets of the victorious powers of the second world war.

The presence of a rightwing nationalist party in the Bundestag will change the tone of German politics. Germany already has difficult relations with both Turkey and Poland. Hopes for deeper European integration may be put on hold. Germany looks like a normal western country.

The Darkening Age

Catherine Nixey

A militant religion deliberately attacked and suppressed the teachings of the classical world, ushering in centuries of unquestioning adherence to its faith.

The early Christians, far from being meek and mild, were violent, ruthless, and fundamentally intolerant. Unlike the old polytheistic faiths, this new ideology stated not only that it was the way, the truth and the light, but also that every other way was wrong and had to be destroyed. For the first five centuries, those who failed to fall into step with its beliefs were pursued in every possible way: social, legal, financial, and physical. Their altars were upturned and their temples demolished, their statues hacked to pieces and their priests killed. It was an annihilation.

The Christian church demolished, vandalised and melted down a simply staggering quantity of art. Classical statues were knocked from their plinths, defaced, defiled and torn limb from limb. Temples were razed to their foundations and burned to the ground. Monasteries began to erase the works of Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, and Archimedes. Every single work of Democritus and his heretical atomism vanished. Nine tenths of all classical literature was lost.

AR Christianity has been tamed since the Enlightenment. Now we face the aggressive intolerance of fundamentalist Islam.

The new Bundestag


CDU 246
SPD 153
AfD 94
FDP 80
Die Linke 69
Grüne 67

Mein Fleck

Prof. h. c. Dr. K. Lamers
N. Löbel
Dr. S. Harbarth

(alle CDU)


EU flag
Britanniens Weg
führt aus der EU

Brexit — Remain Majority

A new poll shows a majority
for the UK to remain in the EU.
Of 1,447 British adults polled
in mid-September, with results
weighted for the UK profile,
52% say remain, 48% leave.

CNN Money
Voll muttiviert

"Throughout its history the UN
has suffered from a seemingly
unbridgeable gap between the
nobility of its purposes and the effectiveness of its delivery."
Theresa May

Swanage today

Wile E Coyote
Wile E Coyote

"Boris is Boris"
Theresa May

Lady Macbeth
AR Another good movie

Jennifer Lawrence
and Javier Bardem star in a
macabre spectacle of revulsion,
a veritable agape of chaos,
says Peter Bradshaw.

AR I found it quite


2017 September 25

The Price of Success

Philipp Wittrock

Angela Merkel will serve as German chancellor for a fourth term. Her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) saw their joint result fall by more than 8% — their worst showing since 1949.

The strategic goal has been achieved, but at a high price. Voters have punished the parties of the current governing coalition. The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) will now enter parliament. And it will be difficult for Merkel to build a stable government coalition.

The AfD have announced their intention to hunt down the chancellor. More than a million voters are believed to have flocked from the CDU and the CSU to the AfD. Most of them say that it was the chancellor's refugee policies that led them to shift their vote.

Merkel has identified the regulation of refugee flows and domestic security as the key topics for the coming years. Who will succeed her? The question is likely to arise soon.


Max Hastings

Dunkirk, the rescue of the British army from the beaches of northeastern France in May 1940, is a British tale that feeds the myth that has brought the UK to the cliff edge of departure from the EU — that there is splendor in being alone.

Winston Churchill never saw anything in the least glorious about standing alone. He saw that while Britain might somehow avert defeat, without fighting alongside friends it could not conceivably aspire to victory. Only necessity and a supremely courageous willingness to defy reason caused him in June 1940 to proclaim British determination to fight to the last.

For the rest of 1940 — the mood turned sourer in 1941 — the British people displayed a stoicism and even euphoria as irrational as Brexit exultation. Churchill and his nation set the world a magnificent example of defiance, but it was an impotent defiance, from which both Britain and democracy were redeemed only by the belated arrival of allies.

Michael Korda is surely right to compare the emotions of the modern Brexiteers with those of the British in June 1940: "There was a national sense of relief .. at leaving the Continent and withdrawing behind the White Cliffs of Dover."

2017 September 24

German Elections

Jon Henley, 17:23 BST

Angela Merkel will form a coalition government after sliding to about 32% of the vote from 41.5% in 2013. She could form a "Jamaica" coalition of CDU (black), FDP (gold), and Greens (green).

The SPD scores 20% — a new new post-war low. The party will go into opposition. At 13%, the AfD will not be the official opposition party in the Bundestag.

Dramatische Verluste für Union, SPD auf Rekordtief, AfD dritte Kraft

Die Welt, 18:18 CEST

Die Union wird mit 32,7% stärkste Partei. Die SPD steht nur noch bei 20,2%. Drittstärkste Partei wird der Hochrechnung von 18.12 Uhr zufolge die AfD mit 13,4%. Die FDP kehrt mit 10,5% der Stimmen in den Bundestag zurück. Auch Grüne und Linke werden vertreten sein.

God And Spock

Simon Yisrael Feuerman

A new series of Star Trek premieres this weekend.

In the original Star Trek series, Spock was played by Leonard Nimoy. Spock had a Vulcan salute appropriated from the hand signs the Cohanim make when they recite the priestly blessings in synagogue.

In one episode, Spock and Kirk met up with a monster capable of great destruction but also love and tenderness. Spock felt he must communicate with the monster even if doing so could kill him. He used a Vulcan mind-meld to connect with this creature. Spock came into painful touch with the monster, screaming pain followed by an uncontrollable pseudo-religious rant.

Later, Nimoy revealed that he when he was eight years old, his family took him to shul on the high holidays, and he witnessed the priestly blessing. His father admonished him not to look at the priests as they blessed the congregation. He was told that the shekhina, the presence and the light of God, shone through their hands and fingers, and the holy light could fatally blind.

Nimoy invented Spock as a kind of ideal Jew.

2017 September 23

Quantum Gravity

Anil Ananthaswamy

Antoine Tilloy approaches gravity by tweaking standard quantum mechanics. He modifies the GRW model to show how it can lead to a theory of gravity. The model incorporates flashes — spontaneous random collapses of the quantum state vector — that have the effect of measurements without observers.

A flash collapses a state vector to a unique state, creating a gravitational field at that point in spacetime. A massive quantum system with many particles is subject to numerous flashes, to give a fluctuating gravitational field that averages out to a Newtonian gravitational field.

This approach to unifying gravity with quantum mechanics is called semiclassical: gravity arises from quantum processes but remains a classical force. The model predicts that gravity behaves differently at the atomic and cosmological scales.

AR It will be hard to coax us all away from the geometric approach to gravity in general relativity. Also, those random flashes are quite unmotivated. I studied the GRW model 30 years ago and was unconvinced. Roger Penrose controversially proposed a similar mechanism, with consciousness to trigger the flashes.

2017 September 22

A New Era of Cooperation and Partnership

Theresa May

The British people have decided to leave the European Union. Our determination to defend the stability, security, and prosperity of our European neighbours and friends remains steadfast. We will do all this as a sovereign nation in which the British people are in control.

Since the triggering of Article 50 in March, we have made concrete progress on many important issues. The UK government, the Irish government, and the EU as a whole have been clear that through the process of our withdrawal we will protect progress made in Northern Ireland over recent years. We have also made significant progress on how we look after European nationals living in the UK and British nationals living in the 27 Member States of the EU.

We will no longer be members of the single market or its customs union. Let us be creative in designing an ambitious economic partnership which respects the freedoms and principles of the EU, and the wishes of the British people. To make this partnership work, we will need a strong and appropriate dispute resolution mechanism.

We are proposing a bold new strategic agreement that provides a comprehensive framework for future security, law enforcement, and criminal justice cooperation. We are also proposing a far reaching partnership on how we protect Europe together from the threats we face in the world today. What we are offering will be unprecedented.

There should be a period of implementation after the UK leaves the EU. As of today, these considerations point to an implementation period of around two years.

Our departure causes another type of uncertainty for the remaining member states and their taxpayers over the EU budget. We can only resolve this as part of the settlement of all the issues. The UK will honour commitments we have made during the period of our membership.

The negotiations will be difficult. But we can find a way forward that makes a success of this for all of our peoples. The tone I want to set is one of partnership and friendship.


Josef Joffe

Germans vote in their general election on Sunday. The only question is who Angela Merkel will pick as a junior coalition partner for her fourth term. For spice, you have to look to the Alternative for Germany and its coded racism.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, is the perfect embodiment of a nation that has had its fill of political thrills. This is why the country will grant her yet another term, at the end of which she will have been in office for 16 years.

The queen of consensus also knows how to reverse course. In the refugee crisis of 2015, she welcomed a million migrants into the country. By early 2016, the Balkan route into Germany was closed and border controls were back.

Historically, moderation has never been a German speciality. Now blandness is a blessing. The Merkel republic offers full employment, decent growth, and a more egalitarian income distribution than elsewhere west of Scandinavia.

No European NATO member has disarmed further or faster than Germany since 1990. But Russians seem ready to redraw European borders by force.

2017 September 21

German Nationalism

Alan Posener

The general election in Germany will see the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party enter the Bundestag. Rightwing populism has been a fixture in the Netherlands and Austria for years and authoritarian nationalists are ruling Poland and Hungary, but Germany is different.

Four years ago, the AfD was led by an economics professor who wanted Germany to leave the euro. He and the other liberals are gone now, sidelined by Frauke Petry, who transformed the party into a populist anti-immigrant outfit. But she wanted the AfD to enter government coalitions and she demanded the expulsion of far-right radicals. Though still the party chairwoman, she is obviously on the way out.

The new stars are Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland. Weidel used to work for Goldman Sachs and Allianz Global Investors, is openly lesbian, and lives in Switzerland for tax reasons. She praises communist China for its law and order and because it protects its borders. Gauland is portrayed in a 1996 novel as a reactionary bureaucrat and careerist. He is against American capitalism and for German neutrality.

The AfD is on the brink of success. Perhaps the realities of parliamentary work will expose its weakness. If a true leader arises, the party could really go places.

Atomic Brain

Andreas von Bubnoff

Brains are paragons of energy efficiency. The human brain consumes something like 20 W of power. Modern supercomputers would use over a billion times the power to simulate the same activity.

UCLA researchers hope to match this efficiency with systems that mirror brain structure. A team led by Adam Stieg and Jim Gimzewski is building a device inspired by the brain to do what it does.

The current pilot device is a 2x2 mm mesh of silver nanowires connected by artificial synapses. The device is messy, like a highly interconnected plate of noodles. Its fine structure essentially organizes itself out of random chemical and electrical processes.

The mesh boasts 1 billion artificial synapses per cm^2, which is within a couple of orders of magnitude of the brain. Its electrical activity also displays a property of complex systems like the brain: criticality, a state between order and chaos indicative of maximum efficiency.

Preliminary experiments suggest this neuromorphic silver wire mesh can perform simple learning and logic operations, it can clean the unwanted noise from received signals, and it proves the principle that devices can compute with an energy efficiency close to that of the brain.

The researchers trained the wire network to execute simple logic operations. If such neuromorphic atomic switch networks can eventually solve tasks as effectively as algorithms running on traditional computers, they could do so using only a billionth as much power — and fast.

2017 September 20

Total Destruction

Kori Schake

President Donald Trump says unless North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, "the United States will have no choice but to totally destroy" the country: "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime."

Secretary of Defense James Mattis says a war on the Korean peninsula would be tragic on an unbelievable scale. Even if the United States could pull off a military campaign of exceptional virtuosity, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans would likely die.

National Security Advisor Lieutenant General McMaster has made the case for military attacks. He says President Trump will not allow North Korea to develop the capacity for a nuclear attack on the United States. Military action must be on the table.

The White House is conflating possession with use. Shrewder would be to say nuclear weapons make no difference, because any attack on America or its allies would result in the end of the Kim regime. A nuclear-armed North Korea is no big deal.

2017 September 19

Rocket Man

Donald Trump

As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first. All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens, and the nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition.

AR Hegel used to say nation-states were in a state of nature relative to each other. Wars followed.

We Were Wrong

The Times

Earth has warmed more slowly than had been forecast by computer models. It seems we have a better chance than previously claimed of meeting the goal set by the Paris agreement on climate change to limit warming to 1.5 K above pre-industrial levels.

A new study published in Nature Geoscience shows that rapid reductions in emissions will still be required but suggests that the world has more time to make the changes.

University College London professor of international energy and climate change Michael Grubb:
"It's still likely to be very difficult to achieve these kind of changes quickly enough but we are in a better place than I thought."

The new study finds that computer models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted a more rapid temperature increase than has taken place. Global average temperature has risen by about 0.9 K since pre-industrial times but there was a slowdown in the rate of warming from 2000 to 2014.

Oxford University professor of geosystem science Myles Allen: "We haven't seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models. We haven't seen that in the observations."

According to the earlier models, keeping to the 1.5 K target would mean humans could emit only about 70 gigatons of carbon after 2015. In the new view, we can emit another 240 gigatons and still have a reasonable chance of keeping within 1.5 K.

Allen: "That's about 20 years of emissions before temperatures are likely to cross 1.5 C. It's the difference between being not doable and being just doable."

Grubb: "We're in the midst of an energy revolution and it's happening faster than we thought, which makes it much more credible for governments to tighten the offer they put on the table at Paris."

AR Good news — for now!

2017 September 18

Brexit — Benefits

Nigel Lawson

Theresa May will speak in Florence before the next round of Brexit talks. She will reportedly say that after Brexit the UK will wish to maintain a special relationship with the EU. Arguably her most important audience will be in the UK.

There are economic benefits to be gained from Brexit:

1 UK public finances will benefit. The outlook published by the OBR shows EU payments falling from £12.6 billion in 2018/19 to zero in 2019/20.

2 UK legislators can comb through the vast corpus of EU regulation, amending it to suit the best interests of British business and our economy in general.

A trade deal is in the gift of the EU, and at best they will offer a bad deal. No deal simply means trading on WTO terms, like most UK trade with the rest of the world.

There is no cliff edge and no cliff.

AR Go tell Wile E Coyote.

A Ludicrous Fantasy

The Guardian

Her Majesty's secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, Boris Johnson, is an accomplished confidence man. His 4,200-word job application (he wants to be prime minister) in last Saturday's Telegraph is a masterclass in doublespeak and smarm. Almost everything it says about the prospects of a Brexit deal is false.

The members of the Conservative party who might still make him prime minister want to believe Britain is the second-greatest power on Earth after America. They want to believe that wicked foreigners are taking from us £350 million a week. They are instinctively convinced they you cannot be a patriot and a lover of the European Union.

True patriotism demands a sense of proportion. Fear of young people who declare their allegiance to a European ideal is not true patriotism but the last resort of scoundrels. The task for we who think Brexit will be a disaster is first to mitigate it and second to pin the blame on the Bullingdon boys.

Sexual Selection

David Dobbs

Richard Prum believes in the Darwinian theory of sexual selection. He is an expert on the evolution of feathers and says they may have first evolved as a decorative surface for sexual display.

Prum believes courtship displays and rituals arise from a multigenerational conversation between mating partners. Male aesthetic and social qualities are repeatedly tested, judged, and modified by whether they please potential mates. Thus individual female preferences help drive evolution.

Evolution unfolds according to the demands of either fitness or beauty. A trait selected for its beauty might create problems by selecting for ornaments that work against fitness. But aesthetic courtship creates a culture that gives the female sexual choice, autonomy, and safety. Such choices gradually reshape mating behavior.

Prum shows how, for one human trait after another, adaptationist explanations fail while aesthetic ones work. Distinctive human sexual traits evolved to help women evaluate male prosocial-pleasure potential. Humans evolved to negotiate and have sex as a sort of display ritual.

Sexual selection is shaped by conflicts between male and female priorities. Sexual species tend to evolve toward either big forceful males or beautiful males. Prum says humans chose beauty.

2017 September 17

Emergent Spacetime

Robbert Dijkgraaf

Thermodynamics describes the collective behavior of large numbers of particles, irrespective of many microscopic details. It covers a wide class of phenomena in its mathematical scope.

In a renormalization group formalism, we go from small to large by taking averages. Instead of looking at the behavior of individual atoms, we can take little cubes, say 10 atoms wide on a side, as building blocks. We can then repeat this averaging procedure. Renormalization theory describes how the properties of a system change as we increase the length scale of the observations.

At the limits of the renormalization process in the infinitely large or small, things will typically simplify because either all details are washed away or the environment disappears.

This approach to quantum gravity started with the thermodynamics of black holes and came into being with the work of Juan Maldacena. In this approach, quantum spacetime, including all the particles and forces in it, emerges from a holographic system with fewer spatial dimensions.

Spacetime emerges out of the complexity of quantum information. Thermodynamics and general relativity both describe emergent phenomena.

AR A series of effective models at different scales needs folding at the limits into a theory of consciousness to give us an epistemologically grounded ontology.

The Rub Of Time

Emma Brockes

Martin Amis lives with his wife Isabel Fonseca in Brooklyn. At 68, he is still very much Amis:
"I miss the English. I miss Londoners. I miss the wit."

The terms of success in America are narrower, with a greater emphasis on individual responsibility. Amis says it is undoubtedly an easier place in which to be a successful novelist.

Christopher Hitchens died in 2011, much sooner than Amis expected. Amis is adamant about the absurdity of losing old friends over politics: "As Hitch said, you can't make old friends."

Since 1993, his own family life has been low in drama. He says he and Isabel have been lucky in all sorts of ways. Amis has mellowed.

The Golden House

Aminatta Forna

Salman Rushdie has written a tale involving great wealth and a great downfall, through a narrator who lives in the same New York garden square as Nero Golden and his three sons.

The book begins with the election of Barack Obama and ends eight years later on the eve of an election in which the lead contender refers to himself as the Joker. Nero is a man of fabulous wealth, with a beautiful Russian wife, and a fortune thought to be in part built on real estate.

The novel sees New York from the inside and the outside. Rushdie seems to be saying character creates destiny. Nero is the architect of his own downfall.

2017 September 16

German Elections

Natalie Nougayrède

German elections take place on 24 September. There is zero suspense as to who will be the next chancellor. Angela Merkel is set for a fourth term in office. She has managed to anchor her image as a safe pair of hands to shield the country from how crazy the world has become. Germans just want to hunker down and keep on living the good life.

Like the British, but for entirely different reasons, Germans have taken a holiday from the world. German voters have not shown the slightest interest in Brexit. German politicians too: Brexit was not mentioned once in the TV election debate between Merkel and Martin Schulz.

France comes across as a bit of an exception. Europe featured prominently in the French campaign, as an object of celebration for Emmanuel Macron and as a source of all evil for Marine Le Pen. One reason Macron won is that he equated Europe with a new form of French patriotism.

Contrary to many predictions, the 2015 refugee crisis has not upended German politics. In Britain, it contributed to producing Brexit. In France, it helped Le Pen collect 10 million votes. Merkel has changed her policies by closing the open door, but not her rhetoric on the moral duty of asylum.

The German public mood will make it harder to agree a collective European strategy for dealing with Brexit, Trump, Russia, Turkey, the Balkans, China, Africa, climate change, migration ..

Armageddon and Paranoia

Roger Boyes

Nuclear deterrence depended on mutually assured destruction. Stalin understood after WW2 that the US nuclear arsenal was too slender to pose an immediate threat. He challenged American power in Berlin in 1948 and supported the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950.

When Curtis LeMay was called in to sort out US Strategic Air Command in 1948, he found that bombers had first to fly to Texas to pick up their bombs, then refuel in Britain before they could drop their load on the Soviet Union. By 1953 he had fixed that with 500 bombers, 500 aerial tankers, and a web of bases across the world.

Stalin responded by throwing massive resources at the nuclear project. In 1955, the Soviets conducted the first ever test of a thermonuclear bomb, dropped from a plane over Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. They launched the satellite Sputnik into space in 1957.

At the time of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, President Kennedy chose not to make use of US nuclear superiority. The fear that even a few Soviet missiles could hit US cities was compelling. Kim Jong Un is creating another Sputnik moment for America.

Armageddon and Paranoia by Rodric Braithwaite

2017 September 15

War Law

Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro

International rules regarding the use of force are at the heart of some of the most beneficial transformations of the past 70 years.

A century ago, war was regarded as a legal and legitimate instrument of state action. States had the right to wage war to right legal wrongs. The first world war was the terrible culmination of the old world order.

The Paris Peace Pact of 1928 had the goal of outlawing war. Fifteen nations signed the pact immediately and within a year nearly every state in the world followed suit. The signatories had rejected a world in which war was the tool for resolving disputes and righting wrongs.

In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria. US secretary of state Henry Stimson wrote to the governments of China and Japan to say the US government would not recognize any outcome brought about by means outlawed by the Peace Pact.

In 1941, US attorney general Robert Jackson said the Peace Pact authorized the Lend-Lease Act, through which the United States supplied war material on favorable terms to the Allies.

The second world war was a war of military might and of ideas. The Axis powers fought for the retention of the old world order. The Allies aimed to build a new legal structure grounded in the renunciation of war. When the Allies won, they defeated the old world order.

The United Nations was built around the commitment to outlawing war. The world order that resulted has brought 70 years of peace.

AR Apart from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq ..


The NASA Cassini mission to the Saturn system ends September 15. The satellite will dive into the clouds and burn up.
The moon Titan nudged its trajectory down to Saturn. NASA calls the nudge a goodbye kiss.

US-Russia Reset

In April, Vladimir Putin sent
a document to Washington
proposing normalization of relations between the US and
Russia across all major
branches of government.

He underestimated the
political blowback the Trump
administration would face if
it normalized relations amid
investigations by the FBI and
Congress into allegations
of collusion with Russia.

The Russian ambassador to
  Washington suggests the
offer is still open.

Maryanthe Malliaris
and Saharon Shelah have
made a breakthrough in
the mathematical study
of the continuum

Sam Harris podcast

Nigel Farage
UK-MEP Nigel Farage bei
AfD-Treff in Zitadelle
Spandau, Berlin

Gangstarapper Bushido
spricht mit AfD-MEP
Beatrix von Storch


2017 September 14

Populist Europe

Michel Gurfinkiel

Populism endangers peace and stability in Europe.

Hungary — the government is led by Viktor Orbán, a populist and nationalist who undertook to turn Hungary in an authoritarian direction. Roughly two-thirds of Hungarians support xenophobia.

Poland — the conservative Catholic Law and Justice Party is passing populist-nationalist legislation.

Czech Republic — the conservative government is increasingly authoritarian and nationalistic.

Greece — the left-wing Syriza regime exudes the same authoritarian populism as the extreme right. Syriza gained power by promising that Greece could keep its welfare system, never pay its creditors, and maybe even renounce the euro.

France — an existential threat to Jews has emerged from immigrants. Most of the violence is perpetrated by radicalized Muslims. French Jews are now leaving the country in large numbers.

Russia — Vladimir Putin garners populist praise for Russia as the vanguard of white, Christian civilization, against both the rising tide of Islam and American decadence. When the Soviet Union dissolved, its army and secret police remained intact and communism became nationalism.

2017 September 13

State of the Union

Jean-Claude Juncker

The EU economy is bouncing back. We should stay the course and chart the direction for the future. Now is the time to build a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe for 2025.

Today I wrote to European Parliament president Antonio Tajani and prime minister Jüri Ratas outlining the priorities for the year ahead. Five proposals are particularly important:

1 I want us to strengthen our European trade agenda. Partners across the globe are lining up at our door to conclude trade agreements with us.

2 I want to make our industry stronger and more competitive. I am shocked when consumers are knowingly and deliberately misled and I call on the car industry to come clean and put this right.

3 I want Europe to be the leader in the fight against climate change. Set against the collapse of ambition in the United States, Europe will ensure we make our planet great again.

4 We need to better protect Europeans in the digital age. A European cybersecurity agency will to help defend us against attacks.

5 Migration will stay on our radar. Europe is not a fortress. Europe is and must remain the continent of solidarity where those fleeing persecution can find refuge.

Europe was always about values:

Freedom from oppression and dictatorship, freedom to voice your opinion as a citizen and as a journalist: on these freedoms our union was built.

Equality between its members, with no second class citizens or second class workers or second class consumers.

The rule of law, with law and justice upheld by an independent judiciary, where member states gave final jurisdiction to the ECJ.

Europe needs to become more inclusive, with the euro as the single currency, with all member states in the banking union, and with agreed social rights. It needs a stronger single market, stronger economic and monetary union, and a European minister of economy and finance accountable to the European Parliament.

Europe must be stronger in fighting terrorism and stronger as a global actor. By 2025 we need a European defense union. We need it and NATO wants it.

I want our union to have a stronger focus on things that matter. We should not meddle in the everyday lives of European citizens by regulating every aspect. We should give back competences to member states where it makes sense.

The EU needs to take a democratic leap forward. I would like to see European political parties start campaigning for the next elections much earlier than in the past, with new rules on the financing of political parties and foundations. Europe would function better if we were to merge the presidencies of the European Commission and the European Council.

On 29 March 2019, the UK will leave the EU. This will be a very sad and tragic moment. We will always regret it. But we have to respect the will of the British people.

My hope is that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up to a Union where we all stand by our values, where all member states firmly respect the rule of law, where being a full member of the EZ and the Schengen area is the norm for all member states, where we can defend our single currency, where our single market is fairer, where we agree on social standards, where profits are taxed where they were made, where terrorists have no loopholes to exploit, where we have agreed on a defense union, and where a single democratically elected president leads the way.

If our citizens wake up to this union on 30 March 2019, they can vote in the European Parliament elections in May with the firm conviction that our union is a place that works for them.

2017 September 12

Brexit — The Irish Question

Fintan O'Toole

The Irish Question: How do you impose an EU frontier across a small island without utterly unsettling the complex compromises that have ended three decades of conflict?

EU guidelines for its negotiations with the UK: "In view of the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, flexible and imaginative solutions will be required."

The Irish radically revised their nationalism. The power of the Catholic Church collapsed, the Irish economy became a poster child for globalization, and the search for peace in Northern Ireland forced a rethinking of ideas. Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar is 38, part Indian, and gay.

The Irish border is a physical token of a mental frontier. The reciprocal withdrawal of territorial claims has recreated Northern Ireland as a new kind of political space. The Belfast Agreement recognizes the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they choose.

When these ideas were framed and endorsed in referendums on both sides of the Irish border, a third identity as EU members was shared: Ireland and the UK joined the EU together in 1973.

Brexit is England revolting against the ideas that animated the Belfast Agreement. In the 2016 referendum, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London rejected Brexit and Wales voted narrowly in favor. In England without London, Brexit won by almost 11%. Brexit was a nationalist uprising — but the nation was England.

Northern Ireland is both Irish and British. Its people have an irrevocable right to be EU citizens.

2017 September 11

Brexit — Sweet Delusion

Joris Luyendijk

British hopes for a sweet soft Brexit deal reveal ignorance of the internal logic of the EU.

The EU is rapidly evolving into an economic zone governed by a single set of rules and standards and overseen by a single European court of justice, striking trade deals with the rest of the world and deriving its logic and coherence from the four freedoms — goods, capital, services, labor. It will be a single economy, not just a single market.

Brits misread the EU position on Brexit. No other EU member state wants to leave, because each believes the benefits of membership exceed its costs. They all want to prevent other member states using a sweet deal for Britain to claim their own version. EU refusal to cut Britain a sweet deal is not about punishment but about self-preservation.

Brexiteers are deluded to think EU self-interest is served by a special deal for Britain.

AR Like the dilemma of a bunch of prisoners: one defects and wins at the expense of the others, several defect and all lose, none defects and all win. Except that in an integrated world a lone defector can't win either. Go figure.

The Nature of Consciousness

A Conversation wth Thomas Metzinger
Sam Harris podcast #96 (1 h 54 m)

AR Delightful — I know Thomas and I feel I know Sam, and I agree with just about everything they say here. They are two of the inner avatars — two mini-me figures — in my mindspace that jostle to bring my manifold of sensation to the synthetic unity of apperception, to recall a trope due to Immanuel Kant. They are inseparable in that sense from the ceaseless substrate of cerebro-cognitive processing that builds and rebuilds my sense of self. To recall a trope due to Daniel Dennett, they are demons in my pandemonium.

2017 September 10

Brexit — Address Grievances

Tony Blair

British politics is in thrall to Brexit. There is no diversion possible from Brexit without addressing the grievances that gave rise to it. The people forced the political class to wake up to the depth of their anger. But if those of us warning about the consequence of Brexit turn out to be right, and it makes us poorer and weaker, the anger will be worse and the choices more ugly.

Immigration bedevils the politics of virtually every European country. We need an immigration policy that reasserts control. But by focusing on European immigration, we are targeting the one group of migrants who clearly contribute more than they take.

We can:
— Keep freedom of movement but reform it.
— Support the single market as a matter of principle together with its social protections.
— Control overall immigration in ways that meet public anxiety but are true to our values.
— Explain why Brexit is a distraction from government failures, not a solution to them.

Many in government feel they are bound by the referendum and hemmed in by their party. Brexit forces a political choice that millions will feel they cannot support and a policy debate completely irrelevant to the real challenges the country faces. MPs should put country above party.

2017 September 9

The Church of England

Jeremy Paxman

A National Census survey suggests that 8.5 million British people now identify as Anglican, down from 13 million a decade ago. In a population of 65 million, fewer than a million go to church regularly, a decline of 11% over the past decade.

The Church of England has 26 bishops in the House of Lords and the Archbishop of Canterbury outranks the elected prime minister. The Queen, who follows Henry VIII as Defender of the Faith, says her role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions but instead to protect the free practice of all faiths.

The Church of England has three sources of authority: scripture, tradition, and the exercise of reason. C of E secretary-general ­William Nye may understand the Thirty-Nine Articles but the supposed defining principles of the C of E are unknown and virtually incomprehensible to most worshippers. They have been argued over since their promulgation in 1571.

Only an ignoramus would deny the importance of the Church in the creation of the welfare state. But disagreements over new liturgies, polite squabbles over gay and gender rights, its wish to share its authority with Islam, Sikhism and Judaism — these all indicate its struggle to adjust to the world the rest of us have been living in for years.

A Better Place

Israel Story

In 2007, long before Tesla and Elon Musk became household names, Israeli tech entrepreneur Shai Agassi announced that he was going to revolutionize transportation and put millions of drivers behind the wheel of an inexpensive electric car. It was going to make the world a Better Place. Brian Blum chronicles the demise of that dream.

AR I knew Shai at SAP — he was my boss for a while. Really nice guy.

2017 September 8

Threat to Iran Nuclear Deal

The New York Times

President Trump promised during his campaign to kill the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Killing the deal would give Iran an excuse to revive what had been a rapidly advancing nuclear capability. It would confront the world with another intractable nuclear challenge in addition to North Korea.

Iran is engaging in some worrisome pursuits, but the deal is confined to the nuclear program. As long as Tehran is staying within those limits, Trump has no reason not to certify compliance. The United States has often held to deals with aggressive or unsavory governments.

Brexit — Hard Border

Michel Barnier

The UK wants the EU to suspend the application of its laws, its customs union and its single market at what will be a new external border of the EU. And the UK wants to use Ireland as a kind of test case for the future EU-UK customs relations — this will not happen.

Brexit — Hard Line

Liam Fox et al.

Continued membership of the single market, even as part of a transitional arrangement, would quite simply mean EU membership by another name. We cannot allow our country to be kept in the EU by stealth. The government must respect the will of the British people, and that means leaving the single market at the same time as we leave the EU.

The single market is a political project, and requires its members to constantly introduce new EU laws. Therefore, the longer one remains a member the harder it is to leave.

The UK must be free to negotiate and sign trade deals during the transition period and must have the power to take back control of key parts of its immigration system. When we leave in 2019, we need to make sure we are well and truly out.

AR Hart auf hart — kann nicht gut gehen.



Oxford #1

Oxford University is #1
in the world and Cambridge
is #2 in the World University
Rankings collated by Times
Higher Education.

AR British paper hails
British universities:
Eigenlob stinkt.

Hawker Hurricane (top)
Bristol Blenheim (bottom)

October 2017


2017 September 7

Flavor Physics

New Scientist

The electron has two heavier siblings. The electron was discovered in 1897; the muon, like the electron but with 207 times the mass, in 1936; and the tau, with 3400 times the mass, starting in 1974. The electron, the muon, and the tau — the charged leptons — are different flavors of the same particle.

All the fundamental fermions seem to come in three flavors, with low, medium, and high masses. Probing flavor physics might help us see further. One way to do so is to test lepton universality, the principle that all leptons behave alike, so that when larger particles decay, any leptons in the fallout should be produced in equal proportions when their mass is accounted for.

In 2014, LHC scientists studying the decays of B mesons found 25% fewer muons than electrons produced, violating the principle of lepton universality. If lepton universality is broken, one explanation is that an unknown particle appears fleetingly during the meson decay and interacts with the various decay products.

Ben Gripaios was exploring the idea that the Higgs might be composite and worked out that if it is, then a hypothetical particle called a leptoquark probably is too. Leptoquarks provide a fresh way to think about flavor physics. With the mass of a composite leptoquark predicted to be under 1TeV, it should be possible to make them at the LHC.

AR Call this work in progress.

Reason in Islam

Christopher de Bellaigue

Palestinian philosopher Sari Nusseibeh has mulled over what many critics of Islam consider to be its besetting flaw: its antipathy to reason. He says reason entered Islam through discussion and analysis of the Quran in everyday Arabic, relying on many of the same philosophical and critical techniques as Christian theology.

The Quran is a famously allusive, repetitive, contradictory text. Nusseibeh says the Quran first enabled reason to flourish in the Mideast. The slow decline of Muslim reason came after later historical reversals that engendered a defensive impulse to contract the intellectual world of Islam.

The high-water mark of reason in the modern Mideast came shortly before WW1, when Egyptian Mufti Muhammad Abduh revived the Mutazilite idea that the Quran was created, not eternal, and hence a historical document, open to interpretation according to time and circumstance.

Nusseibeh: "Given socioeconomic and political conditions in present-day Arab society, a turn of historical proportions is needed to give free rein to the imagination and permit reason to conceive a new course — as happened, so long ago, right at the beginning."

AR Can we call Mideast reason a work in progress?

2017 September 6

AI Rules

Vladimir Putin

Artificial intelligence is the future not only of Russia but of all of mankind. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.


Barack Obama

Immigration can be a controversial topic. But the action that the White House took today is about young people who grew up in America. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every way but on paper.

My administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country. We did so based on the legal principle of prosecutorial discretion. And America grew stronger as a result.

But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong. And it is cruel.

The action taken today is a political decision. It is contrary to our spirit and to common sense. Ultimately, this is about basic decency.

British Economy Broken

Justin Welby

I am convinced that most people in Britain want an economic system in the service of human flourishing and the common good, where all are valued and all have a stake, regardless of their perceived economic worth and ability.

Our economic model is broken and we are failing those who will grow up into a world where the gap between the richest and poorest parts of the country is significant and destabilising. Half of all households have seen no meaningful improvement in their incomes for more than a decade.

Between 2010 and 2015, the median pay for directors in FTSE 100 companies rose by almost a half. In communities where I have worked in northern England, living standards have fallen.

2017 September 5

Quantum Reconstruction

Philip Ball

Some researchers want to reconstruct quantum theory from a few simple principles.

Lucien Hardy focused on the probabilities that relate the possible states of a system with the chance of observing each state in a measurement. He assumed that any system can be described by a list of properties and their possible values. Then he considered the possibilities for measuring the values definitively in a single observation.

A qubit can be in a superposition of the states 0 or 1. If you measure a qubit, you only ever get 1 or 0. A quantum object commonly has more states encoded in the state vector than can be seen in practice.

This property of qubits can be reflected in in probabilistic rules about how systems can carry information and how they can be combined and interconverted. The simplest theory to describe such systems is quantum mechanics, with phenomena such as interference and entanglement, in which the properties of different objects become interdependent.

A quantum reconstruction starts by listing the probabilities that a user of the theory assigns to each of the possible outcomes of all the measurements the user can perform on a system. That list is the state of the system. The other ingredients are the ways states can be transformed into one another, and the probability of the outputs given certain inputs.

Quantum theory can be derived from axioms about information. The axioms state that information should be localized in spacetime, that systems should be able to encode information about each other, and that every process should in principle be reversible, so that information is conserved. A system governed by these rules shows all the familiar quantum behaviors, such as superposition and entanglement.

Hardy suspects there is still a deeper level to go to in understanding quantum theory.

2017 September 4

NK — Massive Military Response

James Mattis

Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.

We are not looking to the total annihilation of North Korea, but we have many options to do so.

German Election Debate

The New York Times

Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz clashed in a 97 minute exchange on refugee policy, Turkey, and domestic security. She agreed with his statement that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union, while he expressed doubt about whether President Trump could deal effectively with North Korea.

Polls declared Merkel the winner. But many voters remain uncertain about who could better lead them over the next four years — nearly half of all German voters remained undecided.

Angela Merkel v Martin Schulz

AR Watching and hearing the live debate was such a delight — clear, factual, cooperative, wide ranging, analytic, harmonious, constructive, intelligent, and illuminating. So refreshingly different from the polemical dissonance one hears in British TV debates.

2017 September 3

Bournemouth Air Festival

Bournemouth East Cliff
2017-08-31 — 2017-09-03

How Brits seem to love nostalgic reminders of World War 2, even just to see overflights by aircraft of 1940 vintage that failed to prevent the Dunkirk defeat (left).

AR Sunday: Rain stopped play.

NoKo Nuke Test

The New York Times

North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test on Sunday, according to the South Korean military. A seismic tremor emanating from the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test had an estimated magnitude of 6.3, said the US Geological Survey.

Hours earlier, the NK state news agency said NK had developed a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted on an ICBM — without real evidence. The fourth NK nuclear test in January 2016 was claimed to be a hydrogen bomb.

SK president Moon Jae-in and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe called emergency meetings of their national security councils.

Abe: "If North Korea has conducted a nuclear test, we can never accept that."

2017 September 2

Brexit — Wipeout

The Independent

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier: "No decisive progress."

Without such progress on the Irish border, the divorce bill, and the rights of EU/UK citizens, there can be no progress on a trade deal. Nothing — failure.

Full UK access to European markets implies EU membership, migration of labour, and a common external tariff. The Irish border cannot be open and free when it is an EU external border. Either the British pay their financial obligations or they do not. These are facts, not bargaining chips.

The chance is high that the UK will simply crash out of the EU in March 2019 with no deal. Who would want to be British prime minister after that, and have to tell the British people they will be poorer, with rising prices, a falling pound, and fewer jobs?

A wipeout for the Tories beckons.


Israel Rosenfield and Edward Ziff

On September 1, 1953, William Scoville performed brain surgery on HM. From then on, HM could no longer remember anything he did. He could not remember what he had just eaten or find his way around the hospital. He failed to recognize hospital staff he had met only minutes earlier.

After surgery, HM was insensitive to pleasure and pain. This is critical to understanding his loss of memory. All of our memories are subjective. The loss of pleasure and pain is a loss of subjectivity, which HM lost when Scoville removed his hippocampus. The hippocampus is essential to convert short-term memories to long-term memories.

The hippocampus is made up of cells with different functions. Place cells respond to location in space, creating mental maps of the environment. Other cells help establish our relationships to many other types of environmental and internal stimuli. Hippocampal neurons convey relationships to our consciousness.

Our memories are created from the point of view of the individual who is remembering. We have a sense of self because we have a preexisting sense of our body that contains that self. The basis of our subjectivity is our body image, which the brain creates from our movements and from the sensory responses to those movements.

When memories are first formed, they are short-term and unstable. With time, the physical representation of the memory in the brain formed by the synaptic junctions between neurons becomes more stable. The stabilized memories then become long-term memories. Even long-term memories are dynamic. Each time the brain tries to activate a memory trace, the nature of that trace changes. Memories are altered every time the brain recalls them.

2017 September 1

North Korea

Vladimir Putin

Russia believes that the policy of putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is misguided and futile. The region's problems should only be settled through a direct dialogue of all the parties concerned without any preconditions. Provocations, pressure and militarist and insulting rhetoric are a dead-end road. The situation on the Korean peninsula is balancing on the brink of a large-scale conflict.

Hubble Finds Water Near Trappist-1

Jon von Radowitz

Astronomers say Hubble Space Telescope data suggests life might have evolved on planets orbiting Trappist-1, a dwarf star 40 light years from the Sun. A total of 7 planets similar in size to Earth orbit the star in its habitable zone — and now it seems the outer planets still have plenty of water.

UV radiation can dry planets out by breaking up its water molecules. Levels of UV radiation emitted by Trappist-1 suggest its inner planets could have lost 30 Yg of water in the last 250 Ps. But its outer planets may have lost less than 4 Yg of water, leaving oceans on their surfaces.

AR See blog 2017-02-23 and 2017-05-13.


Anil Ananthaswamy

From dolphins to slime moulds, organisms throughout the evolutionary tree seem to make sense of the world mathematically, deciphering its patterns and regularities in order to survive.

Any form of life that interacts with its environment needs an implicit model of that environment to function. Yet these living modelers are unaware of what they are doing. Even we human beings are unconsciously doing some pretty complex mathematics when we run or catch a ball.

Humans invented numbers. Our symbolic language for mathematics allows us not only to overcome certain limitations of our subconscious mind but also to explore abstract concepts in depth and communicate them to others. Perhaps we are born with a conscious sense of numbers in the same way we are conscious of colors.

Humans have built an immense pyramid of mathematical knowledge. The more we learn about the hidden workings of the universe, the more such mathematical innovation seems to describe the things we see. The success of mathematics as a language speaks to its primacy in the organization of the universe.

Max Tegmark thinks the universe is a mathematical structure that we are slowly uncovering to reveal the reality. He says the biggest hurdle is a mathematical description of consciousness: "That's going to be the final test of the hypothesis that it's all mathematics."

AR I've done that bit — see my book Mindworlds.

NK missile

North Korea threatens Japan

Burning Man
Burning Man
Black Rock Desert
2017-08-27 — 2017-09-04

Bournemouth beach on
Bank Holiday Monday

Border sign

Sterling sank yesterday
to €1.0835. Before the
vote on 23 June 2016,
£1 could buy €1.31.

International Space Station
photobombs solar eclipse

Natalie DiBlasio
Totality from a plane
over Oregon


Bannon the Barbarian
is back at Breitbart
"Steve is now unchained"
"He's going nuclear"



Activist and Nobel prizewinner
Malala Yousafzai wins place
to study PPE at Oxford


2017 August 31

Brexit — Deadlock

Jon Stone

Brexit talks are deadlocked as the UK and EU negotiating teams fail to make progress in critical areas. The biggest stumbling block is the divorce bill. The UK and the EU cannot agree on how to calculate it. The two sides may not make sufficient progress by October to move onto trade talks about the future UK-EU relationship.

Theresa May: "We have been publishing a series of papers over the summer. There will be more papers to come, where we are setting out the key issues that both sides need to address, the options that we have, the ideas we have, of how to deal with those."

2017 August 30

Physics of Extremists

Neil Johnson

We looked at the shapes of the distributions of terrorist attacks. Given 9/11 and an attack half that size — that gives you the statistical distribution. When you plot the frequency of events versus the size of events, you get a straight line with a slope of 2.5 for conflicts and terrorism.

Loose groups that come together and then sense danger might fight and then break up and scatter in all directions. Almost like fish in the sea, they build into schools and when a predator comes along they scatter.

We took those two features and we built a mathematical model for collections of objects that try to coalesce into groups, and then when they detect imminent danger break apart. And then they form up again, then break apart. The equations gave a power law distribution for the sizes of the clusters with a slope of 2.5.

Extremists form themselves into online groups to exchange information. Like the fish under the sea, they slowly build up into groups and then the groups get shut down by the moderators, in which case they scatter. The size distribution of the groups is a power law with exponent 2.5.

People who become extremist more quickly do so in a predictable way. The ones who take longer to cook tend to fluctuate around more. The tendency for people to flock together and then break up is common to any human activity that is under stress.

2017 August 29

NK v Japan


North Korea has fired a missile over Japan. Prime minister Shinzo Abe calls it the "most serious and grave ever" threat to the country.

The missile was fired just before 6 am in Japan. The launch set off warnings in northern Japan urging people to seek shelter. It flew over Hokkaido and broke up before falling into the Pacific Ocean a little more than 1 Mm off the Japanese coast. The missile was in flight for a little less than 1 ks.

Japan's UN ambassador Koro Bessho: "The international community has to put more pressure on North Korea."

Thorium Reactors

New Scientist

Dutch nuclear research institute NRG has launched the Salt Irradiation Experiment (SALIENT) in collaboration with the EU Commission. The researchers will use thorium as a fuel for a molten salt reactor, a next-generation design for nuclear power. Molten salt reactors can achieve very high temperatures, boosting the efficiency of the power generation process.

Other will join the thorium club. A US startup based in Utah is developing a thorium reactor, and Utah's Seven County Infrastructure Coalition is seeking experts to evaluate a thorium energy facility for producing electricity. By the end of the year, the Kalpakkam thorium test reactor in India may start generating energy.

AR I have been pushing for more thorium power R and D for years.

2017 August 28

Brexit — Soft Option

The Guardian

A Conservative government with a delusional policy on Brexit is hastening the UK toward an exit from the EU that could devastate the economy.

Labour's new Brexit policy is that Britain must remain inside the single market and the customs union for a transitional period. The transitional period will be as short as possible but as long as necessary. During that time, existing single market and customs union terms would continue to apply. Labour wants the soft option.

Labour is now more electable. Labour MPs can work with the many Conservatives who want a softer Brexit. This is a moment of hope.

Brexit — Brussels Anger

Christoph B. Schiltz

First the UK irritated the EU because it failed to explain what it wanted at Brexit. Now as the third round of negotiations begin the ideas are coming — and Brussels is angry.

According to Article 50, at midnight on 29 March 2019, the UK is out. The EU Parliament says cherry picking is not on. The size of the Brexit bill, the rights of EU citizens, and the Irish question should be decided by October.

Everything is still open.

2017 August 27

Grave Systemic Crisis

Niall Ferguson

Philip Zelikow has served Republican and Democratic presidents and was executive director of the 9/11 commission. He says the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations have all been lured by the threat of Islamic terrorism into "broken wilderness areas of the world" that are unlikely to change the course of world history in any positive way.

Zelikow says catalytic change comes only after a systemic crisis when people all over the world no longer think the old order works. We are on the brink of just such a crisis now, triggered by the digital revolution and the spread of Islamic extremism and much else.

The West no longer has the secret sauce: the growth rate is a grinding 2%, the returns go to the top 0.1%, and the public and private debt just keeps piling up. Anyone who wants to take umbrage at anything shrieks "hate speech!" — the modern term for heresy.

The world is probably slouching toward a grave systemic crisis.

Sperm Counts Plummeting


Men in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have suffered a 52% decline in sperm concentration and a 59% decline in total sperm count between 1973 and 2011.

AR Blame hot pants — free the scrotum!

2017 August 26

Germany Military Leadership

Anne Applebaum

Germany is an integral member of NATO. From 1945 to 1989, the US army gave West Germany the safety and security to develop a uniquely successful political culture. But there are reasons to doubt continuing American support. Germany should make its own plans to deal with threats.

Germany lacks the military and diplomatic power to keep Europe safe from future Russian aggression. Germans once confronted the problem of unification, and they spent time and resources on solving it. But when it comes to problems in the wider region, Germany has been absent.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel has made the already low German defense budget an electoral issue. Given the poor condition of German armed forces, this seems irresponsible. Germans should work with the EU to create a multinational force that can defend EU borders.

Borderline Insanity

Jörg Schindler

Brexit threatens to cause confusion in Northern Ireland. Since 1998, Catholics in Northern Ireland have shared Irish citizenship. But when an EU external border runs through the island of Ireland, they will become EU citizens outside EU territory.

In 20 years of relative peace, the island of Ireland has become a single economic entity. But if the UK ends up leaving the EU single market and customs union, a border control regime will have to be reintroduced. This will cause tensions.

Irish and Northern Irish Catholics would like to see Northern Ireland remain part of both the UK and the EU. London and the EU27 would have to agree, as too would Northern Irish Protestants, most of whom are diehard loyalists.

A New Political Party

Caitlin Moran

Many people in the UK have decried the idea of a new, pro-EU political party. But the simple fact is that the 48% of people who voted Remain don't have a party they can vote for. So market forces tell you there is a big, obvious market for a new, centrist, pro-EU party.

As this new party seems to be forming in a tearing hurry — the presumption being it will have to be up and running if/when the Brexit shit hits the fan and the population looks for something new — I fear things will be overlooked as people seek to form an instant structure.

The most useful thing would be a pamphlet. It would do us good to return to the era of the thoughtful, well-reasoned pamphlet. Every generation should start at the beginning again and remind itself that the basis of any democratic system is a series of philosophical questions.

2017 August 25

Political Platforms

John Herrman

The rise of internet platforms promised mass participation in the public sphere. This felt and functioned like freedom, but it was always a commercial simulation. This contradiction is foundational to what internet companies are.

Social platforms refer to their customers as users or members of a community. Their leaders are prone to statesmanlike posturing, and content moderation and behavioral guidelines are likewise rendered in the terms of legal governance. Questions about how platforms deal with disruptive users and offensive content are met by invoking free speech.

These companies draw arbitrary boundaries against spammers, concerning profanity, or in response to government demands. Social platforms are closer to authoritarian spaces than democratic ones.

Nude Beaches


German Left parliamentarian Gregor Gysi is bothered by the slow demise of free body culture (FKK) in Germany: "We need to make FKK possible at more places. It would be a great benefit."

After reunification, FKK began to dwindle even in East Germany. Gysi quotes a sex researcher who says West German men are responsible for the decline by ogling women: "Women didn't want to be looked at. They wanted to be free."

Gysi wants to see more nude beaches in Germany because FKK is part of German culture and an aspect of freedom: "A one-piece swimsuit or a bikini may be uncomfortable for some."

Taking Back Control

Katherine Watts

The UK prime minister says the UK parliament will make laws, UK judges will interpret them, and the UK supreme court will be ultimate arbiter in disputes over them. The UK will be outside the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).

Without the CJEU check on power, the unwritten UK constitution gives the government tremendous power to push through its own policies. A government with a large parliamentary majority is sovereign. The House of Commons has unchecked power. The House of Lords has no veto over legislation, and parliament can block a UK court from hearing a judicial review against the government.

The CJEU has at times acted on behalf of UK citizens over the UK government. It has put environmental issues into EU law and has helped to create important rights for UK citizens. Now the UK government will take back control.

2017 August 24

Rule Britannia — Not

Philip Stephens

HMS Queen Elizabeth can carry 60 fighter aircraft. But the the American F-35B jump-jets planned for it are too expensive. So the Royal Navy flagship will have to make do with 12 or fewer.

Brexit Britain is billed as Global Britain. No one knows why giving up on Europe will enhance British standing elsewhere. Now ministers admit they cannot afford a hard Brexit.

Britain will leave the EU customs union but the government wants to replicate its arrangements. The ECJ will be out but Britain will accept another court that takes its lead from the ECJ. Britain will be out of the single market but a "deep and special" partnership will ensure frictionless access.

Brexiteers think international trade is about tariffs. Today standards and norms are what really matter. Services too need common rules and mutual recognition.

On immigration, the government wants to cut numbers to below a net 100,000 a year — but hospitals will not lose EU doctors and nurses, farmers will still have cheap eastern European labour, and foreign bankers and tech wizards will always be welcome.

Most ministers know that Brexit comes with a hefty cost, but are unwilling to say so to voters. So they promise to make a success of what they know will be a failure.

Britain could just join the United States. After all, the first jets to fly from the Queen Elizabeth will belong to the US Marines. But Donald Trump takes the shine off that idea.

2017 August 23

Total Eclipse of the Presidency


In Arizona, President Donald Trump revisited his response to violence in Charlottesville and reignited the culture wars.

He blamed "weak, weak people" for allowing removal of statues commemorating the Confederacy:
"They're trying to take away our culture. They're trying to take away our history."

On the protests in Charlottesville:
"The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news ..
I hit 'em with neo-Nazi, I hit 'em with everything. KKK? We have KKK. I got 'em all."

On the failed vote to repeal and replace Obamacare and Arizona senator John McCain:
"One vote away, I will not mention any names."

A swipe at Arizona senator Jeff Flake: "Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows who the hell he is. And now, we haven't mentioned any names, so now, everybody's happy."

"I think we'll probably end up terminating NAFTA at some point .. Believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall."

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell doubts whether Trump can lead the Republican Party into the mid-term elections and beyond.

US Military Coup

The Independent

With his speech on Monday about increasing troop deployment to Afghanistan and US policy in South Asia, US President Trump surrendered to the military. His generals — chief of staff John Kelly, defense secretary James Mattis, and national security advisor H.R. McMaster — hold him hostage.

In 1961, US President and former D-Day supreme commander Dwight Eisenhower warned against this: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

AR A military takeover from Trump is a step forward.

2017 August 22

Afghanistan, Pakistan, India

Donald Trump

We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time, they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting. That must change immediately.

We appreciate India's important contributions to stability in Afghanistan but India makes billions of dollars in trade from the United States and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.

AR The US must get tougher than this with Pakistan.

US 0, China 2

Financial Times

In his last interview before he was fired, Steve Bannon said the US was engaged in an economic war with China. His exit shows Beijing is winning. 

Goal 1 for China — President Donald Trump decided to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP would have locked the US and China's largest Asian trading partners in a formidable economic bloc from which Beijing was initially excluded.

No US goal — Trump did not confront the One China policy or declare China a currency manipulator. His administration has just launched a probe into alleged Chinese theft of intellectual property, but it will probably drag on for a year.

Goal 2 for China — Beijing has avoided any economic disruptions with the US ahead of a Communist party congress this autumn that will inaugurate the second term in office for President Xi Jinping.

AR So Trump has cost the US another trillion dollars.

Brexit — Yes

Patrick Minford

Our report estimate that the gains from a full Brexit will be £135 billion: a 7% boost to GDP and a rise the growth rate. Elements in the calculation: free trade, pragmatic regulation, zero EU payments, and no more cost to the taxpayer of the subsidy paid to unskilled EU immigrants.

Our estimates have triggered howls of protest and derision from economists. They assume Brexit UK will be protectionist and they use a "gravity" model in which trade is a function of the size and proximity of trading partners.

The UK government is committed to free trade and the UK economy shows growth toward net exports away from consumption. The gravity model cannot account for the surge in our service exports all around the world or our huge trade with anglophone countries.

Brexit — No

Molly Scott Cato

The model estimating a big boost from a hard Brexit is voodoo economics. It is based on the UK unilaterally removing all restrictions and tariffs and trying our luck in a global market. This would lead to a massive fall in wages and the end of UK manufacturing.

That model has no credibility. The view of the EU as a costly protectionist club has been debunked. In the real world, proximity, common standards, and rapid movement of components matter. The report is based on the illusion that the UK can stand alone in a globalized world.

2017 August 21

Killer Robots

Future of Life Institute

Tesla founder Elon Musk and Google DeepMind man Mustafa Suleyman:
    "Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora's box is opened, it will be hard to close."

AR Respect the rule of law [lethal autonomous weapons]!

Brexit — Cold Autumn

The Guardian

Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar says it has proved too difficult to close the differences in the opening rounds of talks between the EU and the UK. In October the European Council, on which Cerar sits, will decide by unanimity whether sufficient progress has been made on three key issues for talks to begin on trade.

Brexit — A Champion

Matt Ridley

The EU single market is a fortress protected by high external tariff walls. The big issue today is not tariffs but standards. Britain has a strong interest in trying to lead the world into services liberalisation. Britain can champion a shift toward an approach based on principles, focused on outcomes, and friendly to consumers.

A Clean Brexit

Bernard Jenkin

There will be no soft Brexit when the UK leaves the EU. A second referendum would be a distraction and perpetuate uncertainty. The EU must comply with the WTO trade facilitation agreement. Matters regarding interpretation of an interim agreement must be settled via an independent tribunal, not by the ECJ.

A Brexit Court

The Times

Britain could both withdraw from the ECJ and accept EU demands for independent judicial oversight of a future deal. EFTA court president Carl Baudenbacher proposes that the UK agree to accept the jurisdiction of the EFTA court, which oversees the EU relationship with Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: "The big difficulty is that the EFTA court takes its lead from the ECJ, and while its rulings are technically advisory, in practice they take direct effect in the countries concerned. That would be unacceptable."

AR UK — a law unto itself — a.k.a. rogue state.

2017 August 20

Brexit — Legal Confusion?

Catherine Barnard

Brexiteers vilify the European Court of Justice (ECJ). But the ECJ in Luxembourg scored a win for the City of London when it ruled that the ECB was wrong to insist that euro clearing houses should be based in the EZ.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is the one that ruled on prisoners' voting rights and that obstructed the path of UK efforts to deport Abu Qatada.

Brexiteers hate letting a foreign court tell British courts what to do. But the ECJ only interprets the meaning of EU law. The UK courts apply that interpretation to the facts.

Given the proximity of the UK customs union with the EU customs union, any judgments of the ECJ on the EU customs union will put UK courts under a strong obligation to interpret UK law in the light of ECJ judgments.

After Brexit, any future ECJ judgments will be drafted without the benefit of British judges sitting on its bench and British lawyers arguing the case. The UK has punched above its weight in getting its way — all that will be lost.

2017 August 19


Aaron James

What the surfer knows, in knowing how to ride a wave, bears on questions about freedom, control, happiness, society, our relation to nature, the value of work, and the meaning of life.

For someone to be surfing, three conditions must be met:
1 He must be attuned to a shifting phenomenon outside of himself, like a wave.
2 He must be adapting himself in response to it, so as to be carried along by its propulsive forces.
3 He must be doing so intentionally and for its own sake.

Adaptive attunement captures a meaningful sense of freedom consistent with being trapped by the laws of nature. Freedom is a matter of transcending your will and accepting the exchange between what you intend to do and what you are constrained to do by the forces around you. You take what the wave gives you.


Robert Wright

On my first retreat I had an experience that bordered on hallucinogenic. At first I was, like, whoa. I mean, this is my first retreat, right? And at first it's like red and purple and I'm like: Whoa, this is a new place. What I observed was actually in a sense that thought, except that what it looked like was one entity saying it to another, and I realized it was kind of like the inside of my mind.

Our ordinary way of seeing things is pretty deeply confused. You have apprehensions that are quite different from your ordinary way of experiencing things. Like you're meditating on a retreat, and you feel that the tingling in your foot is no more a part of you than a bird that's singing.

2017 August 18


Stefan Wagstyl

Germany is a rich country, with the highest income per head of the larger EU countries, comfortably ahead of Britain, France, and Italy. Unemployment is the lowest in the EU.

But the disparities between rich and poor loom large for many Germans, who have long believed they live in an unusually fair society, after WW2 swept away old elites and left a more equal country.

On household income, Germany is close to the EU average. But on wealth, Germany is significantly less equal than its EU peers. The gap has widened for the same reasons as elsewhere — globalization and technological change.

— Fewer than half of Germans own their own homes. The rest rent. The market delivers affordable housing but discourages investment in home ownership.

— German state pensions are generous for most people who are employed full-time for most of their working lives. They are a reliable way of financing old age.

— German inheritance tax law favors business owners. The rules largely exempt fortunes invested in productive companies as long as the heirs promise to maintain jobs.

Parliamentary elections in September offer Germans a chance to make their voices heard. SPD leader Martin Schulz pledges to raise taxes on the well-paid to finance tax cuts for those on lower incomes. Chancellor Angela Merkel offers tax cuts for all, funded from the budget surpluses.

Trump — Toast

Before composing his ode to the statues of Confederate leaders, Donald Trump tore into two Republican senators who had dared to criticize him for what he said about Charlottesville. To get any trade or tax legislation through Congress, the White House will need the overwhelming support of Republicans in Congress. Even assuming that Trump will survive this latest horror show, he has moved onto political ground that makes it virtually impossible for other people to stand with him.

Steve Bannon — Fired

2017 August 17


Steve Bannon

We're at economic war with China. They're not shy about saying what they're doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it's gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they're just tapping us along. It's just a sideshow.

There’s no military solution to North Korea, forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us.

To me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're 5 years away, I think, 10 years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover.

Biological Mutations

Jordana Cepelewicz

Bacteria have a DNA repair mechanism for when their genomes are damaged. Dozens of genes become active and the rate of mutation goes up. The extra mutations are often detrimental but they enable adaptation.

There may be a mechanism that drives more mutation in regions of the genome where it could be most adaptive. DNA often contains multiple copies of extended sequences of base pairs or genes because mistakes can occur when cells replicate their DNA. If the replication mechanism stalls, usually it can restart and pick up where it left off. Sometimes it goes back to the beginning and accidentally deletes a gene sequence or makes extra copies of it. Perhaps these copying errors are more likely to hit genes that are actively responding to environmental stresses.

This mechanism can arise entirely through Darwinian selection of random mutations to give a process that stimulates nonrandom mutations at useful sites.

HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth  — its F-35B aircraft have not yet been built

Racist Republicans
Edward Luce

The US commander-in-chief
is giving succor to Neonazis.
US democracy is heading
toward civil breakdown.

German Growth

German GDP grew 0.6% in Q2
and 0.7% in Q1. Performance
was in line with EZ average.
German year-on-year
growth was 2.1%.

ING economist Carsten Brzeski:
"There is very little reason to
fear a sudden end to the
current performance."

Zapad 2013

 "The only way to preserve
free and frictionless trade
with the European Union is
continued membership of
the customs union, as well
as the single market."
Chris Leslie

American Reality
Kurt Andersen

Americans believe in heaven
and in miracles. Surveys show
the reality-based community
is a minority in America.
Being American means
we can believe anything
we want.

No No To Nukes

The American public would
not stop a president from
using nuclear weapons in war. Under pressures like those
facing President Harry Truman
in 1945, a clear majority of
the public would support the
first use of nukes now,
as it did then.

Alenia Aermacchi
Luftwaffe Typhoon
with 2 x Taurus
mission concept

The ROK Air Force would
attack NK hard targets with
Taurus KEPD 350, an ALSM
made in Germany



Saturday afternoon

"Cometh the hour,
cometh the Mogg"


Rolf Peter Sieferle und seine

Renters Alliance


2017 August 16

Trump Trash

Yair Rosenberg

Charlottesville, Virginia, last Friday night: White nationalists brandished torches, chanted Nazi slogans, and waved a banner: "Jews are Satan's children."

Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke: "The truth is, the American media, and the American political system, and the American Federal Reserve, is dominated by a tiny minority: the Jewish Zionist cause .. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump."

Alt-right luminary Richard Spencer mocked Charlottesville's Jewish mayor Mike Signer: "Little Mayor Signer — 'See-ner' — how do you pronounce this little creep's name?"

Crowd: "Jew, Jew, Jew."

Google Genes

Daniel Finkelstein

I was not surprised to learn that Google fired James Damore. I think he made a number of errors. Research on differences in the sexes finds them to be quite small, and they do not show women are less fitted for roles in technology and leadership.

The notion that there is something right wing about discussing genes is ridiculous. What we are learning about genes and behavior is a more serious challenge to the right than to the left. There is a connection between genes and behavior.

No argument gets far by ignoring science and common sense. Far from supporting racism, genetic research questions whether race even exists. Debating the relationship between nature and social outcomes helps us understand discrimination.

If some people are naturally less able to make their way in the world than others, then it may not be enough to allow equal opportunity. Genes make the case for redistribution. Progressives need not fear acknowledging the role of genes.



In Russia and Belarus, preparations are underway for Zapad, a major military exercise to be held in September. Of all the exercises in the Russian military calendar, quadrennial Zapad is the one that most closely resembles practice for invading neighbors.

The United States, NATO, and states bordering Russia will be watching closely to learn what they can about the latest Russian capabilities and military procedures. Russia has previously used the fact of troops on the move for exercises to launch real military operations.

Belarus is an ally of Russia but has no antagonism toward the West and wants instead to remain neutral between Russia and NATO. The authorities in Minsk have invited military observers and defense attachés from a large number of countries and international organizations.

NATO states have made small temporary increases in defensive assets in the Baltic states as a precaution.

Brexit Battle

Financial Times

The UK government Brexit paper on future customs arrangements accepts the UK will need a transitional customs union to avoid a catastrophic shock in March 2019. DExEU SoS David Davis calls the lack of detail "constructive ambiguity".

To maintain frictionless trade with the EU, the UK will need to continue the regulation that underpins the single market. Beyond the transition period, the plans envisage either a streamlined customs arrangement using new technology or a new customs partnership that can reliably track goods through international supply chains.

The European Commission says only membership of the customs union and single market will deliver frictionless trade.

Brexit Britain — Urbane, Unhinged

Rafael Behr

Hollywood saw long ago that a British accent makes a fine complement to evil villainy. The center ground of British politics is gone. Beyond our shores, no one thinks Brexit is consistent with the nobler traditions of British statecraft.

Tory radicals cast themselves as swashbuckling adventurers, freeing the UK to find riches on the high seas. But another archetype casts Brexiteers as fanatics urging chaos in honeyed tones, sheathing villainy in gentility.

AR Beware of the Mogg.

2017 August 15

Have Cake And Eat It

The Guardian

The UK government will seek a temporary deal with the EU for a few years after Brexit.

A deal with the EU to retain the benefits of customs union for a transitional period would give businesses and officials time to gear up for a new customs regime and give the UK time to strike new trade deals with non-EU countries. During the transition Britain would not be party to the EU treaties.

The EU will have to decide whether it would accept such an arrangement.

No Right Case For Brexit

Polly Toynbee

Jacob Rees-Mogg is an authentic reactionary. A rampant Brexiteer and a Trump defender, he is a
hard-right Tory, from climate-change denial to praise for disability cuts, from attacking the BBC to abhorrence of regulation.

He wants to cut taxes. He says this brings in more revenue: "Generally people will spend their own money more effectively than the government, and there is no money at all except that earned by the private sector."

Wrong. We need a strong state to guarantee property rights, basic public services for the workforce, and so on. Try running a business in a failed state.

No Left Case For Brexit

Ben Chu

If Labour supporters want a glimpse of what their 2017 election manifesto would look like in practice, they only need to cross the Channel.

In France, university tuition is funded by the taxpayer. In Portugal and Slovakia, domestic energy consumers enjoy price caps. In Germany, there is a network of public savings banks. In Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria, train companies are public. In Luxembourg and Belgium, there are no zero-hour contracts. In Sweden and Denmark, the state takes half of national income in tax.

The EU is a bastion of social democracy. The Leftist case for Brexit is flimsy. The idea that the EU is a neoliberal project is daft.

AR No good case on either side for Brexit.

2017 August 14

America — Locked and Loaded

Gideon Rachman

Donald Trump's threats that North Korea risks fire and fury from a locked and loaded America put American credibility on the line and prompts escalation by the Kim Jong Un regime. He is flirting with a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. All previous presidents have rejected pre-emptive attacks on nuclear-armed states.

The crisis that Trump is stoking is increasingly inseparable from the domestic problems besieging his administration. The investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian intervention in the US election is getting ever closer to the Trump inner circle. Congress is deadlocked and the White House is a hive of sackings and scheming.

The idea that the threat of war could lead Americans to rally around the president should sound alarm bells for anyone with a sense of history. Governments facing a domestic crisis are often more inclined to adventurism abroad. Leaders under severe domestic political pressure are also more likely to behave irrationally.

Tech Sexism

Lara Williams

James Damore: "Philosophically, I don't think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women."

As an engineer in Google, Damore wrote a memo full of of bad science and biological determinism. He said women are intrinsically different to men, with more openness, interest in people over things, preference for social and artistic work, neuroticism and anxiety, and so on.

Science is a slow process, not a growing string of truths. Damore portrays women as a product of inherited traits without social and cultural influence. His assertions presume gender identity happens in a cultural vacuum.

Damore: "We ask why we don't see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs, These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life."

Men do not have biological predisposition toward stressful hours any more than women do. A balanced and fulfilling life is different if you do most of the domestic labor and child rearing. An aggressively masculine "bro" culture makes those long office hours even worse.

Free the Queen!

Kevin Maguire

Britain's most troubled family is way past its sell-by date and living on borrowed time. We should consign the UK to the dustbin of history and embrace the future as the British Republic.

Ending the monarchy is not the most pressing challenge confronting these islands. Yet in its own little way the dusty institution is a block to decency and progress. Royal inherited wealth and habits of deference give respectability to unearned riches and grotesque inequality.

Criticism of royalty is not treason. In an age of austerity there are better ways to spend £369 million than tarting up Buckingham Palace. The royals live in a gilded cage — free them!

2017 August 13


Roger Scruton

Conservatism is the attempt to conserve our community in all matters that ensure our long-term survival and mutual support.

Peace, security, democracy, and historic liberties all depend on a shared sense of belonging among strangers whom we can trust; on traditions of education, cooperation, and compromise; on the Christian legacy of neighbourly love and a tradition of tolerance. They depend upon institutions and forms of life that are the legacy of our attempts to live together as a nation on our island.

Changes have occurred that can unwind those relations of dependence:

The mass immigration of communities who define their political membership in religious
    rather than secular terms
The transfer of sovereignty from parliament to unelected officials in foreign countries
    and foreign courts of law
The disruption of the common law by the abolition of the tutelary office of lord chancellor
    and the creation of a supreme court
The assault on national unity caused by creating a Scottish parliament while leaving the
    English with no assembly of their own

Conservative politicians have a duty to articulate the idea of a diverse but unified civil society and its corporate persona. We have blundered into a condition of mass immigration with no philosophy to justify the attempt to limit it.

In the Brexit vote, the only ideas that emerged were economic, as though the "we" of national sovereignty were merely a matter of being as wealthy as we possibly can. Reducing every question to economics is the fundamental error of the Marxists.


The Sunday Times

Jacob Rees-Mogg is an unlikely outsider. His old-world civility does not suggest much appeal to young voters. But at 48 he is social-media savvy and benefits from suggestions that the Conservatives should skip a generation.

Lunchtime Thoughts

Jacob Rees-Mogg

As a constituency MP I am always seeking to represent the people remote from the centres of power, rather than the interests of lobby groups.

The problem with the European Union is we can be outvoted by a qualified majority vote and therefore laws can be passed that the British people have not only not consented to but have opposed. Some Remoaners think that the people that voted for Brexit were all stupid.

I'm a back-bench MP. My ambition is to be re-elected in North East Somerset. It would be unrealistic of me to have further ambitions. I'm very interested in political ideas, developing Conservative thinking, and I'm very keen that we should have a positive message for Conservatism.

My family is the most important thing. I've got six lovely, delightful children. I'm very lucky. I have a wonderful wife who looks after us all.

Party Pooper

Matthew Parris

Jacob Rees-Mogg is a reactionary with the intellectual nimbleness of a top QC and the opinions of a Colonel Blimp. On Europe, his instincts would take Britain crashing out with no deal at all.

A British Crisis

David Miliband

Britain is suffering a governability crisis. The implementation of the EU referendum decision has been rash and chaotic. The EU is a coalition of democratic states which pledge to advance human rights, the rule of law, and democratic rules. That is the team to be in.

2017 August 12


Ken Mogi

Loosely translated, ikigai is your purpose in life, from the Japanese iki (to live) and gai (reason).
It's your reason for getting up in the morning.

An ikigai is something that gives you pleasure and purpose — walking the dog, drinking green tea, or writing a book.


Ian Buruma

The Memory of Justice is a long (2 h 38 m) documentary directed by Marcel Ophuls about wartime atrocities that has rarely been seen since 1976. In it, the Nazi leaders, one after the other, declared their innocence in the Nuremberg courtroom; Yehudi Menuhin said he assumed every human being was guilty; and Telford Taylor, US counsel for the prosecution at Nuremberg, asked how any of us would cope with the degeneration of standards under pressure.

Ophuls was a superb interviewer, often skeptical, never moralistic or aggressive. Perhaps his most disturbing interview was with Otto Kranzbühler, who was defense counsel for Admiral Dönitz at Nuremberg and later had a successful career as a corporate lawyer. Kranzbühler said of the Third Reich: if you were ignorant of what went on, you were a fool; if you knew, but looked the other way, you were a coward; if you knew, and took part, you were a criminal.

AR I watched (parts of) a serialization of the movie on TV in Germany (or the whole of a short cut —
I forget).

2017 August 11

UK Homeless Crisis

Abi Wilkinson

UK homelessness is rising. Unless changes are made, the number of people made homeless in Britain will double to 575,000 by 2041. Homelessness has already doubled since 2010.

When local council budgets were cut, housing support services suffered. When housing benefit was removed for young people, many were forced onto the streets. When a cap was imposed on the maximum amount a household can receive in welfare, housing benefit was cut.

The charity Crisis suggests remedial measures:
— A 60% increase in new housing
— Adequate funding for local councils
— Mental health support for rough sleepers

We must press the government to address the crisis.

UK Rental Crisis

Ben Kentish

Millions of UK tenants are living in homes that contain dangerous safety hazards and are unfit for habitation. Over a quarter of homes rented from private landlords fail to meet the national Decent Homes Standard.

English Housing Survey data reveals 795,000 homes rented from private landlords currently contain hazards such as dangerous boilers, exposed wiring, overloaded electricity sockets, and vermin infestations.

Private landlords are significantly worse at maintaining their properties than homeowners or social housing providers and are more than twice as likely as social landlords to be renting out a property containing a serious safety hazard.

Local councils are struggling. LGA housing spokesman Martin Tett: "Councils need more resources from government to help councils build more homes for rent, supported by adequate infrastructure and services, and incentives to help raise standards in the private rented sector."

Private rents have risen by 22% since 2010. Between a third and a half of renting households say they struggle to pay their rent each month. Yet they are fearful of voicing concerns. Over 50,000 private renting households were put at risk of eviction in 2016, and almost 20,000 private renting households were evicted by bailiffs.

A government spokesman: "While the number of homes failing to meet the Decent Homes Standard has gone down since 2007, we know there's more to do."

Brexit Bill — Liberty Loss

The Times

Britons will lose their right to sue the government for breaking the law over air pollution. At present an ECJ ruling enables citizens to sue member states for damages if their rights are infringed by a failure to implement EU law.

A proposal in the EU repeal bill would invalidate claims against the government for failing to enforce EU air pollution standards. At present the government is potentially liable under what is known as the Francovich ruling.

A clause in the repeal bill: "There is no right in domestic law on or after exit day to damages in accordance with the rule in Francovich."

Liberty director Martha Spurrier: "Putting the government above the law renders our legal protections meaningless. It exposes a clear agenda to water down our rights after Brexit."

AR Strong state — cowed citizens


"Let us become bullets and bombs devotedly defending respected Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Jong Un!"
Pyongyang, August 9


"They will be met with fire
and fury like the world
has never seen"
Donald Trump, 2017

"They may expect a rain
of ruin from the air,
the like of which has
never been seen"
Harry Truman, 1945

Aurora Borealis
Lofoten Links, Norway

lässt das deutsche

Peveril Point

Ex Machina

"To Irish republicans, Brexit
is a golden opportunity for
pushing unification"
Simon Jenkins



Irish Challenge

Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar
says Brexit is the challenge of
our generation: "We will do all
we can, in Brussels, in London,
and in Dublin, to achieve the
best outcome for everyone
on this island."

Lovell telescope
Jodrell Bank
The Lovell radio telescope at
Jodrell Bank is 60 years old

Dow Jones index over 22,000
Apple valued at $827 billion

Black holes
Ripples in Spacetime
Govert Schilling, Martin Rees

The Laser Interferometer
Gravitational-wave Observatory
(LIGO) was conceived decades
ago and bankrolled by the NSF.
By 2015, about a thousand
scientists and engineers were
working on the project, racking
up costs of more than a billion
dollars. LIGO detected waves
from colliding black holes in
2015 and announced the
discovery in 2016.


Frank Ramsey

As an undergraduate at
Cambridge, Ramsey befriended
Ludwig Wittgenstein. He then
translated Wittgenstein's
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
from German into English and
supervised Wittgenstein at
Cambridge. Ramsey proved his
famous theorem as a lemma
along the way to solving a
special case of the decision
problem for first-order logic.
Ramsey died in 1930,
aged 26.


2017 August 10

North Korea

Mark Bowden

Korea and the Kim dynasty are standing up to a powerful and menacing foreign enemy. Nukes are needed to repel this threat. Kim Jong Un is the anointed defender of all Koreans, the purest of all races.

The NK regime plans to use large numbers of nuclear weapons against US forces throughout Japan and South Korea to blunt an invasion. NK leaders hope that by inflicting mass casualties and destruction in the early days of a conflict, they can force US-SK leaders to recoil from their invasion.

America has four broad options for dealing with North Korea:

1 Prevention. An all-out US-SK attack would defeat NK military forces and topple the Kim dynasty. It would be the most massive US military attack since the first Korean war and would likely trigger one of the worst mass killings in human history. It would depend on surprise and speed — but the Kim dynasty has been on the alert for three generations. Even if the strike succeeded, it would cause the largest humanitarian crisis of modern times.

2 Punishment. The US response to the next NK provocation could be sharp enough to set back the regime but not massive. Key to a limited strike is the pause that comes after. Kim and his generals would have time to think. But once the shooting starts, containing it may be difficult. Even if Kim did perceive limited intent in a first strike, he would correctly see it as an assault on his nuclear arsenal and a step on a road to regime change. He would expect a wider war.

3 Decapitation. US and SK troops recently rehearsed a strike to remove the NK wartime command structure. The US-SK war plan calls for strikes targeting NK leaders. But decapitation would be a huge gamble.

4 Acceptance. There are no good military options. Pyongyang is constrained by the same logic that has stayed the use of nuclear arms for some 70 years. It is hard to imagine Pyongyang disarming anytime soon, but creating a framework that makes it conceivable is the only sensible way forward.

2017 August 9

Climate Change

The New York Times

A 673-page draft report by scientists from 13 US federal agencies, not yet made public, concludes that the average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years.

The report concludes that even if humans immediately stopped emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the world would still feel at least an additional 0.3 K of warming over this century compared with today. The projected actual rise will be 2 K.

The report directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain. Scientists say they fear that the Trump administration could change or suppress the report.

How The Moon Was Made

Rebecca Boyle

Some 4.5 Gy ago, the young Sun was surrounded by a hot, donut-shaped cloud of debris. This stuff swirled around, cooling and combining into clumps, then planetesimals, then planets. These bodies frequently collided and vaporized one another anew, until the Earth and the Moon were forged.

Theia, a body the size of Mars, collided with Earth. The collision produced a disk around the Earth that cooled and solidified to form the Moon. Simulations show Theia could shear away enough of Earth and scramble enough of both to build a Moon and Earth with similar isotopic ratios.

Simon Lock and Sarah Stewart say every bit of Earth and Theia vaporized and formed a bagel-shaped cloud they call a synestia. The cloud spun so fast that it became a fat disk circling an inner region. The fat disk was a cloud of molten rock that eventually cooled to form the Moon.

The Moon is unique in the solar system in having about 1% the mass of Earth and 80% of the angular momentum of the Earth—Moon system. Perhaps the Moon was formed by at least a dozen projectiles coming in from multiple angles and speeds to form moonlets that then merged.

North Korean Nukes

Washington Post

North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, says a new analysis by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.

The North Korean military threat is advancing rapidly. US officials say Pyongyang is outpacing expectations in its effort to build an ICBM capable of striking cities on the US mainland.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense also concludes there is evidence to suggest that North Korea has achieved miniaturization.

Taking Down Kim

Brandon Webb

It would be easy for the United States to take out the entire North Korean leadership with a special operations unit. The intelligence capability and the special ops capability we have today is incredible. Most people have no idea how effective we are at conducting these missions.

The military and special ops community constantly rehearse scenarios — Delta Force Night Stalker helicopters could do a high altitude, high opening parachute op from across the border of South Korea, and then fly under the canopy, undetected — all sorts of scenarios.

Tories Holding Out for a Hero

Paul Goodman

Ruth Davidson is a gay kick-boxer from a Scottish comprehensive who once praised Attlee socialism and now leads the Conservative party in Scotland. Jacob Rees-Mogg went to Eton and Oxford, got rich in the City, and is now a backbench Conservative MP. She backed Remain, he backed Leave.

Both have more popularity within the party than its leadership. Davidson regularly tops a monthly league table on ConservativeHome. Rees-Mogg says he will not stand, but he would have come second this month if he had. Scores of party members wrote in his name when they responded.

2017 August 8

To Be Or Not To Be

Thomas Metzinger

A cognitive bias hinders our moral cognition. The phenomenal states of sentient beings on Earth are much more frequently characterized by suffering and frustration than these beings can see for themselves.

Analyzing the facts, an ethical superintelligence concludes that it should minimize consciously experienced frustration, pain, and suffering. It knows that no entity can suffer from its own nonexistence and that naturally evolved biological creatures are unable to realize this fact because of their firmly anchored existence bias. It decides to act benevolently.

There are no moral facts. We have evolved desires, subjective preferences, and we experience interests. Evolution made us efficient, but the overall process is blind to our own interests. We have deep seated moral intuitions, for example that pleasure is good and pain is bad.

The benevolent superintelligence respects these moral intuitions and tries to find an optimal way of making them consistent. But this does not imply direct access to a mysterious realm of higher moral truths. It just means that the system, given all available data, tries to find out what is in our own best interest.

Maybe meditation or future neurotechnology could help us to make our lives worth living. Conceivably, it could help us in giving our lives a positive overall balance, or even liberate us from the burden of our biological past. But even if all the billions of human beings on this planet were turned into vegan Buddhas, the problem of wild animal suffering would remain.

A fully rational superintelligence would never have a problem with ending its own existence. But most human beings could never accept any such insight, no matter how good the arguments of their artificial moral reasoner were. Homo sapiens would declare war against a compassionate anti-natalist superintelligence.

Human life is one big uphill battle. Yet we will do almost anything to prolong our own existence, even if it violates rationality constraints. This is a biological imperative that has been burned into our nervous systems over millennia — the Buddha called it the craving for existence.

AR Thomas seemed cheerier than this at ASSC XIII.

Quantum Gravity

Natalie Wolchover

Joe Polchinski won the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for transformative advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity.

Polchinski, 63, has worked at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for 25 years. He authored the seminal 1998 textbook String Theory.

Polchinski: "The first thing to know is that the two great theories of physics (quantum mechanics and general relativity) work very well in most circumstances, but in extremes like the beginning of the Big Bang we do not know how to fit them together. Black holes are a great testing ground for this. The firewall paradox seems to say that one of the two theories must be modified, and that the result is that the black hole interior is replaced by a wall of quantum bits."

AR If our Hubble bubble is bounded by a wall of qubits (recall Maldacena, blog 2017-06-25) then it seems black holes must have firewalls.

2017 August 7


Clare Foges

The migrant crisis of the past few years has been a lesson in the dangers of allowing heart to overrule head. From the German welcome policy to the NGO boats searching the Mediterranean for migrants to rescue, humanitarian compassion has escalated the crisis.

The line between refugees and economic migrants is increasingly blurred. The top three home nations of those arriving in Italy in the first quarter of this year were Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Guinea. UN figures suggest that 7 in 10 who have come to Libya are escaping poverty.

Most will sympathise with those who yearn to escape poverty. But behind every one who makes it to Italy are many more who are emboldened to set out on the same journey. The most sensible strategy is to improve life in the poorest countries and so weaken the desire to migrate.

Migrants know that once rescued in the Mediterranean, passage to mainland Europe is assured. The UN defines an asylum-seeker as anyone with a well-founded fear of persecution in their own country. Smartphones let migrants learn their rights under international law.

AR Development aid can be a good investment — better than buying patrol warships that no sane government would allow to sink migrant boats on sight.

2017 August 6

Machines of Loving Grace

Bryan Appleyard

Artificial intelligence and robotics research is transforming our world. New machines will wipe out millions of jobs. The Internet of Things is a whole new way for bad things to happen.

AI systems have already infiltrated the military, financial transactions, and the internet. We are now surrounded by machines that in many ways are more competent than we are. A high-end car runs with well over 100 million lines of computer code — with more to come in self-driving cars.

Regardless of moral and ethical concerns, Beijing proposes to lock everybody in China into a social credit system by 2020. Algorithms will log and assess all web user actions to calculate credit scores. Score high and prosper, score low and despair.

Plans for robot nurses, carers, and teachers often raise safety issues as acute as for cars. Tell an AI carer always to do what is best for the patient and it may well decide to kill them. Program them not to kill people and they may simply decide we are wrong.

Silicon Valley believers say we will engineer the Singularity. A super-intelligent machine will make itself ever more intelligent and solve all our problems. If we avoid catastrophe we can enter a kind of paradise watched over by machines of loving grace.

2017 August 5

Memo to Mike Pence

Foreign Policy

You occupy an unusual position in the American constitution. You are the only member of the executive branch whom Donald Trump cannot fire. You do not serve at the pleasure of the president.

1 Start acting like a potential successor. It will let you emerge as a leader not hopelessly tainted by your origin story. Put meaningful distance between yourself and Trump. Act with the deliberation and integrity and dignity of a president.

2 Do not allow an administration unrivaled in its mendacity to make a liar out of you. Refuse to make any factual representations to the American people that you have not independently verified and are not prepared to stand behind.

3 Reaffirm, wherever possible, your commitment to and faith in all of our three branches of government.

4 Study the example of Gerald Ford, who became president with the resignation of Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974.

Memo to Theresa May

Leo Varadkar

In October I will sit around the European Council table with 26 other prime ministers and we will decide together whether sufficient progress has been made to allow the Brexit negotiations to proceed. I do not underestimate the challenge.

1 If the United Kingdom does not want to stay in the customs union, perhaps there can be an EU-UK customs union.

2 If the UK does not want to stay in the single market perhaps it could enter into a deep free trade agreement with the EU and rejoin EFTA, of which it was a member prior to accession.

3 And if this cannot be agreed now, then perhaps we can have a transition period during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union while these things are worked out.

These are the practical solutions I am proposing.

The Next Big Thing

Tim Bradshaw

Apple augmented reality will launch next month with the latest version of iOS for iPhones and iPads. ARKit technology turns a combination of computer vision, tracking sensors, and mapping software into something that can be incorporated into any app.

Apple could become the first American business to be valued above $1 trillion. But it is 10 years since the launch of the first iPhone. The company faces speculation about where to go next.

Apple has begun to place bets on a wide range of markets. A pair of AR glasses might move cameras, sensors, and screens from the smartphone to the face. Apple is experimenting with prototypes.

Apple designers and engineers are content to wait for the right moment to launch a new product. They can move quickly when the moment arrives. App developers say AR could become the next big computing platform after smartphones.

AR is next — see GOD chapter 0001.

2017 August 4

Brexit Referendum 2

Vernon Bogdanor

Britain is negotiating for a free trade agreement in a hard Brexit. A trade agreement would probably have to be ratified unanimously by the European Council, by a majority in the European Parliament, and by 27 national and 11 regional parliaments.

The June election result reopens the issue of Europe for four reasons:

1 There is probably no Commons majority for a hard Brexit. There is probably a stronger representation of Remain MPs in parliament today than before the election.

2 Labour gains raise the question of whether the decision in the 2016 referendum is final. A study found the Labour soft Brexit policy lay behind its big gain in votes. The election was the revenge of the Remainers.

3 The election intensifies internal divisions in both major parties. If the deal is too hard, Conservative Remainers may join with their opposition counterparts to defeat it, too soft and Tory hardliners could reject it. There may be no majority for any form of Brexit on offer.

4 The House of Lords may reject hard Brexit, saying a minority government has no mandate for it.

With a deadlocked parliament, the possibility of a bad deal, and both parties deeply divided on Europe, the best way out may be a second referendum. Brexit raises existential issues for the future of the UK. The final deal needs the consent not only of parliament, but of a sovereign people.

AR The people wanted Brexit: You can't always get what you want — Mick Jagger.

Brexit Barriers

Andrew Adonis

Theresa May set out the hard Brexit policy of leaving the customs union and the single market in January. Before then, the working Whitehall assumption had been the UK would seek to stay in both, like Norway or Switzerland.

Leaving the customs union and the single market requires the UK by March 2019 to negotiate new trade treaties with the EU27 and with the 75 other nations with which the EU has trade agreements. These 102 countries account for more than 60% of UK exports of goods and services.

British trade is already global — helped, not hindered, by being part of the EU customs union. There are a few large markets with which the EU does not have trade agreements. The new Department for International Trade (DIT) is building up its negotiating capacity from scratch.

AR No deals mean barriers at the borders — FUK.


Yuval Noah Harari

Some time before the ninth century CE, a script was invented to store and process mathematical data with unprecedented efficiency. This partial script, composed of numerals from 0 to 9, was invented by Hindus and promoted by Arabs. The basis for modern mathematics came into being.

This system of writing has become the world's dominant language. Almost all states, companies, organizations, and institutions use mathematical script to record and process data. A person who wishes to influence their big decisions must learn to speak in numbers.

Mathematics has now given us a script consisting of only 0 and 1. Our computers have trouble understanding our minds, so we are learning to talk, feel, and dream in the language of computers. A new kind of intelligence is emerging, based solely on bits.

AR When I find myself in times of trouble, mathematics comes to me.

2017 August 3

War Against North Korea

The Times

US Republican Lindsey Graham quoted Donald Trump as saying "there will be a war with North Korea if they continue to try to hit America" with an ICBM: "He has told me that. I believe him .. If there's going to be a war .. it will be over there. If thousands die, they're going to die over there."

Brexit Reveals UK Flaws

Simon Kuper

Brexit is being mismanaged. More than a year after the referendum, the cabinet still cannot agree on what kind of Brexit it wants, or when. HMS UK is steaming toward yet another disaster.

Brexit reveals three enduring flaws in UK institutions:

1 Running a country on rhetoric. Brexit was made about 30 years ago at the Oxford Union — Oxford university's version of a children's parliament, which organises witty debates, and where future Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were presidents. In Britain, humour is used to cut off conversations before they can get emotional, boring, or technical. Tasking Brexiteers with managing Brexit was like asking the winners of a debating contest to engineer a spaceship.

2 Ruling class insularity. The present cabinet of mostly former public schoolboys don't want Brussels running Britain. That's their caste's prerogative. Because the referendum skated over boring policy stuff, cabinet ministers are discovering only now the UK will pay the EU a large divorce bill.

3 Delusions of grandeur. Britain became a great power because it pioneered the fossil-fuel economy and because being an island was excellent protection when states still invaded each other. Neither advantage exists any more. Britain today is like a cute little bonobo ape that thinks it's a gorilla. The updated strategy is America First, Britain Second — praying that Donald Trump will reward fealty with a sweetheart trade deal.

Britain ignores its genuine strengths. Almost all its clever people are mere spectators at the Brexit slapstick. Westminster insularity had previously enabled the financial crisis. The ruling rhetoricians treated the City as a magic money tree, until in 2007 the tree fell down and hit the country.

AR Some nice rhetoric there.

Mit Abgas in den Abgrund

Michail Hengstenberg

Die Autohersteller sind angeschlagen, ihre Diesel-Verkäufe sinken dramatisch. Mit dem Gipfel sollte hektisch Vertrauen zurückgewonnen werden, doch das Gegenteil ist der Fall. So ist die Branche dem Untergang geweiht.

AR Uups — ich fahre ein BMW Diesel-Auto.


2017 August 2

North Korea

The New York Times

The Trump administration's approach to the North Korean nuclear threat is failing. It was all about putting the responsibility on China to force the North to abandon its program.

China has held back. The Chinese fear the NK regime could collapse, sending millions of refugees fleeing across the border and effectively handing power over the peninsula to US ally South Korea.

The Trump administration has not given up on China. But sanctions alone are not the answer. Some experts suggest an NK nuclear and missile freeze in return for limits on US-SK military exercises.

The administration awaits a "tangible signal" that NK will abandon its nuclear program before talks begin. This is not realistic. Talks should begin without preconditions.

AR It could be worth a trillion dollars to resolve this peacefully.


European Commission

Terrorism is seen for the first time as the most important issue facing the EU.
Immigration comes second.

Trust in the EU and in national parliaments and governments has increased.
Europeans trust the EU more than national parliaments and governments.

4 in 10 Europeans have a positive image of the EU
2 in 10 have a negative image of the EU.
More than 4 in 10 Europeans consider that their voice counts in the EU.
More than half of Europeans disagree that their voice counts in the EU.
Well over half of Europeans are optimistic about the future of the EU.

Absolute majorities of Europeans support EU priorities and common policies.
More than 8 in 10 respondents are in favor of free movement of EU citizens.
More than two-thirds support a common European policy on migration.
6 in 10 are for European economic and monetary union and a single currency.
In the EZ nearly three-quarters support the euro.

Absolute majorities of Europeans feel attached to the EU and to Europe.
More than two-thirds of Europeans feel they are citizens of the EU.

AR The UK is down with Greece and Hungary in the national breakdowns.

Quantum Gravimeter

Jennifer Ouellette

A UK collaboration has built a quantum gravimeter that uses cold atoms to make precise measurements of gravitational field strength. It could be used to survey for oil or minerals, and it may be the start of a new market for quantum devices.

The gravimeter senses subtle changes in the strength of ambient gravitational fields. It holds clouds of rubidium atoms in superposition in a vacuum chamber cooled to 80 microkelvin. To make a measurement, it drops them and zaps them in free fall with three laser pulses. These produce an interference pattern encoding the position and paths of the clouds.

Two atom clouds falling at different speeds would indicate a change in the density of the ground below, for example due to the presence of oil or minerals. Quantum effects are sensitive, so the device must be carefully shielded and cooled.

Glasgow photonics company M Squared founder and CEO Graeme Malcolm: "I think we're just at the early stage of commercial adoption of quantum technologies."

AR My essay on quantum theory is on hold as I study QFT.

2017 August 1

Eurasia This Century


The People's Republic of China and the European Union are the leading political agents on Earth for global organization. China's road and belt strategy and the EU vision of a federalized Europe centered on Germany are the most promising steps in the direction of developing an integrated social and business model across the supercontinent, from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.

America can be part of this vision only after the US experiment with populist democracy has run its course and the US global hegemony has been replaced by a more globalist strategic order. A joint push from China and Europe can nudge Russia into reforms that help it support wider order. A Eurasian order can subsume Islam and other traditions in a social democratic polity.

Science is the enabler for the new vision. A scientific view of the universe and the emergence of life is a backdrop to a view of human duty as to ensure that the human footprint on Earth properly reflects the glory we wish to associate with our memory as deep time swallows up the human legacy. Due respect for science and measured cultivation of technology express basic values.

The globalist vision will center on planetary management for human flourishing in a sustainable environment. Big business corporations will share the vision as a precondition for long term success as providers of specialist services on a global scale. The legal and regulatory environment will claim global scope and seek to integrate outlier regimes as harmoniously as possible.

Globorg Is Great!

Borders of Infinity


Keita Yokoyama and Ludovic Patey have proved a major statement about the finite-infinite divide. The boundary separates two kinds of mathematical statements: finitistic ones, which can be proved without invoking infinity, and infinitistic ones, which presume that infinite objects exist.

Mapping and understanding this division is at the heart of mathematical logic. It leads directly to questions of mathematical objectivity, the meaning of infinity, and the relationship between mathematics and physical reality.

The new proof settles a question about Ramsey's Theorem for pairs — RT22 is finitistically reducible. The argument in RT22 can be used to prove new facts in finitistic mathematics.

RT22 — Imagine an infinite set of objects, such as the set of all natural numbers. Now pair each object in the set one by one with all other objects. Color each pair of objects either red or blue according to some rule. When you are done, RT22 states that at least one of the (all red or all blue) subsets will be infinite (color can be any property).

We are now free to use this result to prove statements in finitistic mathematics. All the finitistic consequences of RT22 are guaranteed to be provable in a finitistic way.

Frank Ramsey used infinitistic methods to partition infinite sets at will. David Hilbert challenged us to prove that set theory and all of infinitistic mathematics is finitistically reducible, and therefore trustworthy. Then Kurt Gödel proved that no system of logical axioms powerful enough to include elementary arithmetic can ever prove its own consistency, so to prove that a system of logic is consistent, you need another axiom from outside the system — end of Hilbert's program.

Patey and Yokoyama showed that RT22 is equal in logical strength to primitive recursive arithmetic, and therefore finitistically reducible. They modeled the infinite (red or blue) set of pairs in RT22 using a finite set whose elements are nonstandard models of the natural numbers. They then translated the question of the strength of RT22 into the size of the finite set in their model.

Numerous finitistic statements about natural numbers are now known to be expressible in primitive recursive arithmetic. They are thus certain to be logically consistent.


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